The president's plans to subject Iraq to the most radical forms of capitalism are as responsible as the war itself for the destruction of Iraq.
At Alternet, Joshua Holland writes:
Iraqis have been brutalized not only by bombs and bullets; they've also been the victims of economic violence in the form of the free market "shock therapy" cooked up by a firm in Virginia on a $250 million no-bid contract before the U.S. invasion. Tranforming Iraq's economy overnight was a matter of ideology trumping commonsense, and it's killed thousands of innocent Iraqis and shattered a way of life for hundreds of thousands more.
That the radical restructuring of Iraq's political economy has received so little critical attention -- even as Iraq's nascent government threatens to crash and burn -- is a testament to how deeply indoctrinated we are --especially our media -- in the narrative of what "American-style" capitalism is. It was taken as a given that after knocking off Saddam, we'd rapidly privatize huge swaths of Iraq's national companies, get rid of hundreds of thousands of civil servants, completely restructure the country's tax and finance laws and throw Iraq's economy wide open for foreign multinationals. File it under bringing "democracy and capitalism" to the poor, backward Arabs.
The reality is that the economic policies we imposed on Iraq were not some generic form of "capitalism"; they included the most radical business-state rules imaginable -- policies that developing countries have vehemently resisted for over a decade. What's more, imposing them at the point of a gun appears to have violated both international and U.S. laws. There's nothing "normal" about it.
And while "democratization" and "free markets" supposedly go hand-in-hand, the truth is that Iraq's economic transformation was mutually exclusive with the goal of forming a legitimate government, and the Bush administration knew it well in advance of the occupation.
That's because it's universally accepted -- even among the most vocal proponents of the very model of corporate globalization that inspired Iraq's new economy -- that in the short-term those policies create economic pain, displacement, anger and civil unrest, as well as a lack of faith in government. That's no way to win hearts and minds.
Even the man who implemented the shock therapy, coalition boss L. Paul Bremer, understood this quite well. Before his installation as "the dictator of Iraq" -- in the words of one UN envoy -- Bremer was a risk management consultant. In 2002, he wrote in a report to his corporate clients: "The painful consequences of globalization are felt long before its benefits are clear… Restructuring inefficient state enterprises requires laying off workers. And opening markets to foreign trade puts enormous pressure on traditional retailers and trade monopolies." Bremer noted that corporate globalization is "good for the economy and society in the long run, [but has] immediate negative consequences for many people," and concluded that those consequences cause "political and social tensions."
Pushing those policies in a country like Iraq was a matter of ideological preference and greed, not necessity. A good example is Iraq's new flat-tax, established by Order #37 (now Law #37). As the Washington Post reported: "It took L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Baghdad, no more than a stroke of the pen … to accomplish what eluded [Republicans] over the course of a decade and two presidential campaigns."
Former Reagan and Bush 41 official Bruce Bartlett said with no small amount of envy that an occupation government doesn't have to "worry about all the political and transition problems that have made adoption of fundamental tax reform here so difficult," and Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, called the move "extremely good news." Meanwhile, one Middle East expert briefed on the plan told the Post "A piece of social engineering is being done on Iraq, but it has almost no support from other members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council."
Putting "free-markets" before what are recognized as "best practices" in post-conflict reconstruction had an immediate relationship with Iraq's insurgency. Consider the impact of two of Bremer's 100 Orders. Order #1 was the "De-Ba`athification of Iraqi Society." It laid off 120,000 senior civil servants (and a half million Iraqi soldiers and officers), ostensibly to clean out the government of holdovers from Saddam's Ba'ath party. But you had to be a Ba'athist to get those civil service jobs in the first place. Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda, told me in a recent interview that "it wasn't an indication that they were a party to Saddam Hussein's crimes ... they were fired because they could have stood in the way of the economic transformation."
When I say "civil servants," don't think about the pasty men and women down at the Social Security office. Think about mostly Sunni civil servants -- men accustomed to influence -- fresh out of a job, with few prospects and facing a new order of Shi'ite rule, and remember that they all had compulsory military training and a collection of automatic weapons.
Now look at Order #1 in relation to Order #39, which made it a violation of Iraqi law fo the government to favor local Iraqi businesses or Iraqi workers for reconstruction work, meaning that all those pissed off, heavily-armed and newly unemployed men could not be put to work rebuilding their country.
That killed the State Department's own exhaustively prepared plans for post-war Iraq -- plans that the administration had announced they'd follow prior to the invasion. According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (PDF):
The Administration … announced plans to employ the bulk of Iraq's regular army to rebuild Iraq's critical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, after a conflict. The United States would pay the salaries of Iraqi soldiers to perform this work, thereby ensuring - at least in the immediate term - against their return to civilian life without any gainful employment.
We'll never know how differently things might have turned out if the administration had listened to its own experts instead of the Chamber of Commerce's lobbyists.
That's not to say these policies caused the insurgency -- it's not that direct -- but they created circumstances in which it could flourish and guaranteed it would have some popular support. This was, after all, an economic order that had led people living in much better circumstances in places like Seattle, Geneva and Montreal to riot. It was predictable that, on the heels of an invasion, they'd be greeted with violent resistance. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution was right when he called post-conflict Iraq "a debacle that was foreseeable and indeed foreseen by most experts in the field."
Much of this policy mix also violated international and U.S. law. It's no small irony given that one of the reasons given for the invasion was to confront a "rogue" regime that scoffed at international law.
Article 43 of the Hague Convention says that an occupying power must "take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." The only law that the American forces left standing was Saddam Hussein's ban on public-sector unions.
Article 55 says an occupying force can only serve as the "administrator" of "public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates." As the Guardian pointed out, those rules also "apply to structural changes to a public resource or service." Naomi Klein asked: "what could more substantially alter 'the substance' of a public asset than to turn it into a private one?"
The questionable legality of the policy was also well understood. Just a week after the bombs started falling on Baghdad, Britain's Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith sent a memo to Tony Blair (PDF) warning that "the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorized by international law." He added: "the longer the occupation of Iraq continues, and the more the tasks undertaken by an interim administration depart from the main objective, the more difficult it will be to justify the lawfulness of the occupation."
The Bush administration -- dominated by Big Business ideologues -- went ahead with the plan nonetheless, and the consequences have been wholly predictable. After all, we've seen them before, in the former Soviet states after the USSR's collapse.
The adminsitration actually cited Russia's economic transition as a model for Iraq. But the University of North Carolina's Jonathan Weiler, an expert on Russia and author of Human Rights in Russia: A Darker Side of Reform told me that while "the ideology of democracy promotion says that democratic political institutions and free market reforms are two sides of a coin in terms of liberal freedoms. In fact, Russian reformers were always more interested in an economic transformation that would enrich their allies." Russia's transition to a market-based economy was anything but smooth, and Weiler says "it's certainly not a model that's compatible with trying to create a broadly legitimate government in a country that's been torn up by war and years of dictatorship. Essentially, implementing Russia's economic 'reforms' required institutions resolute enough to carry them out despite widespread opposition, and that undermined genuine political accountability. So when you look at Russian human rights since 1991, you see that the victims have changed--to the socially disadvantaged rather than the politically suspect--but the realities of life for many vulnerable Russians have in fact become worse."
None of this is to suggest that Iraq's economy didn't have serious inefficiencies or wasn't in need of deep structural reform. But what economists call "inefficiencies" are most commonly someone's job, or a farmer's subsidy -- people's livelihoods. The reforms could have been phased in over a long period, or, better yet, started after an Iraqi government was established.
Common sense should have dictated that, after the destruction of its infrastructure and the dismantling of its (brutal but stable) government, Iraq didn't need to become a laboratory for neoliberal economics. It needed jobs and basics like electricity, water and sewage systems, and it needed them quickly.
That meant local firms, local workers and small, local projects -- which make less juicy targets for saboteurs -- to rebuild the country's public infrastructure. Development experts call that "local ownership," and consider it crucially important for good outcomes.
But commonsense has always been in short supply in the Bush administration, and they chose to make the country into a trough full of slop for the big multinationals. Make no mistake about it, Iraq's economic transformation is an example of war profiteering by other means, and the disastrous results are plain to see.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The president's plans to subject Iraq to the most radical forms of capitalism are as responsible as the war itself for the destruction of Iraq.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Wayne Madsen reports:
July 21, 2006 -- Informed sources have told WMR that arch-neocon Michael Ledeen, who acts as an unofficial foreign policy adviser to Karl Rove, was at the White House yesterday with a group of Iranian opposition figures. Among the topics discussed was a promised $25 million grant by the Bush administration to the Iranian insurgents. The money is to be used to plant Desert Storm-vintage biological and chemical weapons shells, confiscated by U.S. forces in Iraq, on the Iranian side of the Iraqi border. The weapons will be used as "proof" of Iran's plan to "attack" U.S. troops in Iraq. That will be used to justify, ex post facto, the coming U.S. attack on Iran. Our sources report that George W. Bush dropped by the White House meeting to offer his support to the Iranian opposition operatives.
Pretext for war with Iran: White House plans to move chem-bio weapons from Iraq into Iranian side of this desolate border.
July 21, 2006 -- The current Israeli assault on Lebanon was stage-managed between the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and neocons in the Bush administration, according to well-connected sources in the nation's capital. The Bush administration had prior knowledge of and supported Israel's planned attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, the sources have revealed. In addition, there was no move by the Bush administration to warn Americans in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or Lebanon to leave the areas before the Israeli invasions. No travel warnings were issued to U.S. citizens in an attempt to mask Israeli attack plans, an action that resulted in last-minute Dunkirk-like sea evacuations of foreigners from Lebanon.
The first indication that Israel pre-planned its assault on the Palestinians came early this month when the Israelis began denying entry to the West Bank to Palestinians holding U.S. passports. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem refused to intervene with Israel, claiming it was the decision of a sovereign nation. The denial of entry to Palestinian-Americans was a violation of the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Conventions. The United States does not officially recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Washington insiders report that the Bush administration's coordination with Israel in the attacks on Hamas and Hezbollah involve the official adoption of the white paper, "A Clean Break: New Strategies for Securing the Realm," as U.S. policy. The "Clean Break" document, authored in 1996 by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and other neocon operatives, was written at the same time the program for the invasion and occupation of Iraq was drawn up by the same neocon players.
Carrying out the next phase of the neo-con "Clean Break": Netanyahu, Perle, and Ledeen still call the shots on U.S. and Israeli policies. First it was Iraq, then Palestine and Lebanon, next is Syria and Iran.
The current U.S.-Israeli strategy of bombing and invading Lebanon is a follow-up to four years of covert activities by the Pentagon, White House, and Mossad in Lebanon that involved the car bombing assassinations of top Lebanese officials in order to clear out Syrian forces from Lebanon. The assassinations of Elie Hobeika, George Hawi, and Rafik Hariri were all carried out to destabilize Lebanon and force the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon. Syria was blamed by the Bush administration for all the car bombing assassinations in Lebanon.
Israel's border exercise that saw the capture by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese side of the border and the contingency plans involving the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in Israel, near the Israeli-Gazan border, provided a pre-text for the Israeli attack on Gaza and Lebanon. Similar plans have been drawn up to respond to a Syrian "capture" of Israeli troops in Lebanon near the Syrian border or from the Golan Heights. That will be used to justify a joint Israeli and American attack on Syria, with Israel entering from Lebanon and the U.S. entering from Iraq.
The carrying out of the joint Israeli-U.S. attack plan for Lebanon, Syria (and eventually, Iran) is the reason why the United States has stymied UN attempts to seek an immediate cease-fire. The intent of the Bush administration is to see a widening of the conflict. Unconfirmed UN ambassador to the UN John Bolton, appearing on Fox News, laid out the future blueprint for the joint U.S.-Israeli regionalization of the war in the Middle East when he stated, "I think that if you look at the support that Iran and Syria have given groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad that really the reckoning we need here is a reckoning, not just with the terrorist groups, but with the states that finance them."
WMR has also learned that top Israeli and U.S. military officers are adamantly opposed to the Clean Break policy. Many Israeli generals, remembering Israel's bloody occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, favored negotiating a prisoner swap with Hezbollah. The Olmert government is purging the last remnants of the Yitzhak Rabin elements who favored negotiations from the Israeli military and intelligence agencies much in the same way that opponents of the Bush regime have been purged from the U.S. military, CIA, and State Department.
July 21, 2006 -- The son of David Gribben, Vice President Dick Cheney's boyhood friend and his chief of staff at the Pentagon and Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Halliburton, has reportedly joined Cheney's White House staff as an assistant. The elder Gribben is an active player in the corporate-religious tax dodge known as The Fellowship, an Arlington, Virginia-based contrivance that uses religious tax-exempt status to lobby the U.S. and foreign governments on behalf of the military-industrial complex. With the carrying out of the Clean Break by Israel and the United States, profits for companies like Halliburton are bound to skyrocket. The Israeli attack on Lebanon is already estimated to have resulted in $2 billion in damage to Lebanon's infrastructure. WMR previously reported that Jacobs/Sverdrup has been promised a lucrative Pentagon contract to build a large U.S. airbase in northern Lebanon.
The stage is set for Halliburton to move into U.S. and Israeli-occupied Lebanon.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Austin Evers at Emboldened talks with Dr. George Lakoff about his new book, Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea. A follow up to his last book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, Dr. Lakoff’s new book offers insights into why progressives seem to be losing their version of America. The book also suggests ways to fight back and reclaim the notion of freedom, and the country as a whole, for traditional American values.
"It was clear that Dr. Lakoff was excited to get his message out to the blogs. When I told him I was nervous he immediately rejected my claim to be 'only a blogger'. We discussed the role of language and ideas in forming our ideologies, his favorite Democrat Barack Obama, and the role of blogs in our national identity. Dr. Lakoff has an important contribution to make to the progressive movement and his ideas should inform the progressive blogosphere as it struggles to protect America from the regressive conservativism of today’s Republicans."
Austin Evers interviews Dr. George Lakoff:
[audio podcast here]
Austin Evers: Your book, Whose Freedom, is a follow up on Don’t Think of an Elephant, which was a broad approach to language in politics. I’m wondering, what were you trying to accomplish in writing this book?
George Lakoff: Many things. Don’t Think of an Elephant was an attempt to alert the progressive community to what the right wing was doing, to explain how it worked, and to give some idea of what could be done about it. It mainly concentrated on what I’ll call “surface framing.” That is, the kinds of mental structures that go along with words and are evoked by words and slogans. And although it did talk about what I’ll call “deep framing,” that is, values, political principles and ideas that go across individual issues at a higher level than any particular words or slogans, it didn’t talk about that in too much depth.
Whose Freedom is an attempt to move to deep framing, to explain how deeper ideas work, to show that this is not just a matter of surface language, not just a matter of slogans, but a matter of ideas. And it’s here to alert people that you can’t just change the slogans without changing the deeper ideas, and that we are really in danger of having the deepest ideas in American political life changed without the progressive community even being aware of it, or even knowing that that particular change is taking place.
AE: Why is freedom America’s most important idea?
GL: Freedom ties in centrally to democracy. Freedom is part of all of American life, and it is central to progressive thought. All of progressive thought has to do with, say, people fulfilling their dreams, people achieving their purposes, people getting their needs met. These are all issues of freedom. That is, freedom concerns whether you will be able to achieve your goals or get your needs met and what would stand in your way. Many things can stand in your way, people particularly blocking you, blocking access, lack of access, lack of resources and so on. Any of those things—lack of resources, lack of access, or the government or other people stopping you from living your life—all of those are issues of freedom.
AE: Can you talk about the notion of freedom as something that you call a “contested concept?”
GL: A contested concept is a concept that people will necessarily disagree about. The classic examples are art and democracy. Everybody has got a different idea about what constitutes art, and there are all sorts of different theories of art, and so on. People have different ideas about what constitutes a democracy. Freedom is like that as well.
What was discovered back in the 1950s by W.B. Gallie was that there’s a structure to contested concepts. They have uncontested cores—parts that people do agree on, and that the contestation has to do with people’s values, and is determined by those values and the structure of the uncontested core itself. He never went and did detailed studies of these things but linguists have in the past decade, particularly cognitive linguists. What I did in undertaking this book was to take the hardest example that had ever been looked at and to do an analysis of it as a contested concept to see exactly how it worked. What came out of it was in many ways surprising, but in many ways not surprising. The non-surprising part was the different value systems on the right and on the left, that is, the strict father and nuturant parent systems that I described in my book Moral Politics, those systems when applied to the uncontested core yield the different views of freedom by conservatives and liberals.
AE: As a progressive, I was particularly interested to learn that conservatives aren’t just crazy, that they see things in an entirely different way. They apply a strict father frame or understanding to freedom and their entire system of morality and politics stems from that. Can you talk about that a little bit?
GL: What I found when I did Moral Politics was this: I began by asking how different positions fit together. What is it about conservative ideology that makes it natural for that ideology to be against abortion, for the flat tax, against environmental regulations, for owning guns, and for tort reform? How do those things fit together? And what to they mean by family values? And I also asked the same thing about my own values. And I realized that this was a problem in cognitive science: how our ideas fit together. And that’s what I study, my field.
What I discovered was that the conservatives were right when they talked about family values, but their family values had to do with a strict father view of the family, and that the application to politics was metaphorical—it was via a metaphor that everyone in America has—the metaphor for the nation as family. We talk about George Washington as the father of our country, and we have Founding Fathers, and we send our sons and daughters to war. And the reason that this is a powerful metaphor is that we learn about governance in our family. There is a reason that government is understood in family terms.
In a strict father family the structure goes like this—and this is what is taught by James Dobson and other people on the right who teach child rearing. The idea is that you need a strict father because there’s evil in the world and they have to protect you from evil. You need a strict father because there’s competition in the world, there will always be winners and losers of competitions, and the family needs a winner to support the family. You need a strict father because it is assumed that children are born bad in the sense that they just do what they want to do. They don’t know right from wrong, and that they have to be taught right from wrong. It is further assumed that there is an absolute right and wrong, that the father knows right from wrong, and that the only way to teach it is through punishment when the children do wrong. The punishment must be painful enough so that the children will want to avoid the punishment and will discipline themselves to do right, not wrong, in order to avoid punishment. That discipline, called “tough love,” is assumed to be important in another way because if you are disciplined enough to be moral then you are disciplined enough to be prosperous in a free market. You can go out into the free market and if you work hard enough you should become prosperous.
Now, there’s a logic to this, and the logic is that if you’re not prosperous then you’re not disciplined enough to be prosperous and then that means you’re not disciplined enough to be moral so you deserve your poverty. That is part of the logic of the right wing.
It also has a further implication: that the strict father is a moral authority, that morality is obedience, and therefore everybody should do what the strict father says. When you apply this to government what you get is Bush as the moral authority, and that everybody both in the country and in the world should be doing what he says.
Lakoff on Bush
AE: Speaking of Bush, since your book is so much about language, I think it is interesting that Bush is this ideal strict father and yet is widely derided for his speaking abilities. His control over language and ideas seems very great compared to his personal control over language. How is that possible?
GL: Bush has been underestimated. I was called in as a linguist by the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago to look at tapes made by Bush when he was running for Congress in Texas, when he lost. And in those tapes he never mispronounced a word, he spoke in syntactically complete sentences, and argued in classical rhetorical form like a good Yale graduate. And he lost. He lost to a Texan that was a kind of bubba and he said he would never be out-bubba-ed again. He has learned to fit into the image of what a president should be from his base. He can be perfectly articulate when he wants to be articulate, but this is the kind of president that his base wants.
AE: Bush speaks in absolutes—this is the right way compared to the wrong way. Is this the strict father morality coming through?
GL: Absolutely. The strict father morality comes through even in the way he walks. It’s there in every gesture, in his face. It’s there in his tone of voice and it’s there in everything he says.
AE: You talk in your book about how people can in private be nurturant parents while in public espouse a strict father view. It seems like the Bush children have a pretty nuturant set of parents in that they have a lot of freedom compared to what Bush would prescribe for his country.
GL: I actually disagree with that. I don’t know the details of that, but remember that nurturance requires a strong parent who sets limits and guides, and who teaches children to ask questions, answers their questions, but is responsible for their safety and their protection and for their well-being. The Bush daughters have a lot of problems. They have problems with alcoholism, they had problems with the law. I have a feeling they come from a very different kind of background—one that lacks appropriate nurturance.
Democrats vs. Republicans
AE: Let’s talk about the underlying debate that is happening. There is always debate in Congress between Democrats and Republicans, but let’s talk about them in terms of frames. Are there major opposing frames that you see at work in today’s debates?
GL: Well, I do, but what has happened in a lot of cases is that a lot of the frames that determine how progressives come down on a particular issue are unconscious. What happens in Congress very often is that the Democrats go on the defensive and accept the other side’s frames.
Let me give you an example. Take the case of “cut and run.” The frame for “cut and run” is the following: There’s a war against evil that is crucial for us to win, and that it takes bravery and courage and all that we’ve got, and that it takes sacrifice. You have to be above your self-interest in this battle, and if you give in to your self-interest then you are being both immoral and a coward. You’re cutting and running. What you should do is stand and fight. Those three words, “cut and run,” say all of that.
What happened in Congress was that the Democrats got sucked into trying to work within this frame, and they did it all wrong. For example, John Murtha said we should talk about “stay and pay” instead. Well first, “stay and pay” has the same grammar as “cut and run,” and so it evokes cut and run. Mistake number one: grammar matters. Mistake number two: “stay and pay” says we pay—that’s a self-interest point of view. It buys right into their frame that we’re self-interested and therefore we’re cowardly and immoral. John Kerry made the same mistake when he said “lie and die.” Who is dying? Us. It’s our self-interest. We’re cowards and we’re immoral. Jack Reed made the same mistake when he said this was the Republican plan to stay in Iraq forever. Who’s stuck in Iraq? We are. This is accepting self-interest and buying into the idea that we’re immoral and cowards. As long as you accept their frame—even if you think you’re arguing against it—you get sucked in.
AE: You’re Harry Reid and you’re standing on the floor of the Senate, or you’re in Congressman Murtha’s office and your telling him how to frame his opposition to the war, what frame do you recommend?
GL: I think what you have to do is tell the truth, and you can’t tell the truth without framing it appropriately. That’s very important. Frames are not ways to spin or lie. They can be used for spinning but if you’re going to tell the truth very often you can’t tell it without framing it properly.
What you need to do in this case is first admit that George Bush got something right: Three years ago when he stood on that aircraft carrier and said “Mission Accomplished” he was right because a war is a conflict between two armies over territory, and we won that war. And right after we won that war, when he was standing on that carrier, the occupation began. We have been an occupying power in Iraq for over three years. But our troops were trained not to be occupiers but to be combatants in a war. They were not trained for an occupation, they were not equipped for an occupation, they didn’t know the language, they didn’t know the culture, they didn’t have the armor, they didn’t’ have enough troops. And the result was that they were betrayed by our president and the administration, and sucked into being an occupying force which they weren’t trained to be. The result is that they’ve been cut down, they’re dying, they’re going a bit nuts killing other people. They’re under tremendous pressures and they’re not really helping.
The issue in an occupation is not winning or losing because you can’t win and occupation, you can only leave. So the question is a practical one: Are we welcome? For many Iraqis we’re not welcome. Are we helping? Well, the situation seems to be getting worse not better. There’s a civil war going on there, and that civil war was predicted by our generals if we went in this direction. They knew in advance that a civil war was a real possibility under these circumstances but they went ahead anyway. This is not a good thing, and moreover the US has pretty much given up on reconstruction. There’s not a dime in the present budget for Iraqi reconstruction. So it’s not clear that we’re helping very much at all.
Barack Obama: Star pupil
AE: You’re a professor. Thinking about the Democratic Party as your class, who’s your star pupil? Where are you seeing success on the Democratic side in speaking in the proper frames?
GL: I think the person who best understands this is Barack Obama. There are a number of reasons for this. To explain, let me go back a couple of steps.
The Democrats on the whole have a misunderstanding of elections, which is fatal. It’s the rationalist myth but also what Richard Wirthlin discovered about elections when they were running Ronald Reagan’s campaign. Wirthlin was Ronald Reagan’s chief strategist and he had been taught that people voted based on positions on issues. When he started to work for Reagan as a pollster he did a poll and found that people didn’t like Reagan’s positions on issues but they wanted to vote for Reagan. So he tried to find out why and he found out the following things: That Reagan talked about values and if he talked about issues they were symbolic of values. People liked that he talked about values. He was authentic: he said what he believed and it was clear that he said what he believed. People liked authentic politicians who say what they believe. He was trusted because of that, and in addition he could connect with people. He had a kind of empathy with people, he could connect with them, and they identified with him because of that. Those are the factors in an election: values, authenticity, trust, connection and identity. That’s how Wirthlin ran the Reagan campaigns, not on the issues. Even the debates were run that way. And George Bush learned from this—the Bush campaigns were run on the same basis.
You’ve got policy wonks like Gore and Kerry who knew lots and lots about policy, but who didn’t know much about values, authenticity, trust, connection and identity. They should have won handily but they didn’t. So that’s part one. Obama understands these things instinctively. He gets it. Some other people in Congress do, but I think nobody gets it like him.
Then there’s a second part. Many Democrats have a false view of the electorate. They think that if you look at polling data that it will tell you about the electorate because polling data looks at the electorate issue by issue. And there the electorate looks like it’s spread out in a line from left to right, issue by issue. But in fact, that’s not how people work; the human mind does not work issue by issue. The human mind works in terms of systems of thought, and we all have both strict father and nurturant parent systems of thought. That is, both conservative and progressive systems. So for example, you can be progressive and nurturant in every part of your life but if you can understand a John Wayne movie or a Schwarzenegger movie you have a strict father model. Many people are biconceptual: they have both models in different parts of their lives.
The things that Obama understands deeply are several things. First, that progressive positions, progressive values are really traditional American values. Secondly, that people who identify as conservatives, who would write down conservative on a survey or poll, often have many progressive views in important areas of their lives. We at Rockridge [Institute] have been studying this and there’s a system to it. There are many people who call themselves conservative but love the land. That means they’re basically environmentalists but they wouldn’t call themselves that. They’re people who identify as conservative but are really progressive, not conservative Christians. That is, they see God not as a strict father God but as a nurturant God. They really care about the poor, the downtrodden, meek, etc. There are many people who call themselves conservative but want to live in progressive communities where their leaders care about them and are responsible, and people care about each other and are responsible, and where they do community service. This is true throughout the Midwest and the West and it’s a very important thing for Democrats to understand. And then there are businessmen who are really progressive businessmen in the sense that they’re honest, that they treat their employees well, and respect their employees, and that they would never harm the public, they would never put profit above public safety and harm their consumers. These folks are all over America calling themselves conservatives.
What Obama understands is that there’s a way to talk to these partial progressives in the same way you would talk to progressives in general, namely as folks with traditional American values. And if you talk inclusively in that way, you can get people to listen to you.
AE: What about as a regular person, not as a politician like Barak Obama? As a blogger and a Democrat and a progressive, I encounter people all the time who seem like fully indoctrinated conservatives. These are people who read Anne Coulter and listen to Bill O’Reilly and think that they’re not only correct but fair. Is there a conversation to be had with these people? How would you suggest having a conversation with people that approaches them as biconceptuals?
GL: Actually, Don’t Think of an Elephant has a whole chapter at the end of the book about how to do this. Imagine your uncle who is very conservative is coming to dinner. What do you say to him? The first thing to do is to avoid getting into a big argument. Instead, ask him what he cares about. The reason you do this is that progressive thought is based on empathy. That is, caring about things. And when he tells you, because there probably are things that he cares about, ask him how he expresses his responsibility for acting on that care. How does he do it? What does he do? If he has any progressive values then he cares about things and is responsible. Ask him whether he’s proud of that, whether there are other friends who do the same thing, and what else he cares about. Get him talking about what he cares about. Get him talking in terms of your value system. Find the nurturant part of him and get him talking about it. And stop.
Don’t try and make the jump [to Democrat]. Try and get an understanding that on those issues you’re just as moral a person as he is or she is and that you respect them in those areas. And if they want to talk about the ways you differ, say that you want to talk about the ways that we’re the same. I’d rather talk about the ways that we both share American values.
AE: Would you describe Obama’s style as the translation of this approach from dinner table to podium?
GL: Well, there is a different thing if you’re at a podium, or even on the air or doing a blog. If you’re talking one-on-one then you have a different discourse than if you have an audience. Because when you have an audience you’re really doing a form of indirect speech act—you’re really talking to the audience not to the person you’re talking to. That’s a different form of conversation.
You may want to do this with an audience. You can do what Obama does very cleverly and talk to the audience by talking to the other folks and bringing out the common American themes in the audience as well as other people. Now there are other way that you can do that, because as you do this you can make cases for things that they might disagree with but coming out of traditional American ideas. I think the main thing to do is always start with progressive ideas that are clearly based in traditional America, and then building on those. And that’s one of the messages of Whose Freedom?, that is, this book is about how to do that.
AE: On the subject of blogs, I’m wondering how you feel the progressive blogosphere is currently framed in the minds of non-bloggers and the media, and if you have any suggestions for bloggers as writers of a new media.
GL: One of the most interesting things about going to the YearlyKos conference was meeting the most respected figures in the blogosphere who are respected for the best of reasons. They’re just really smart. Many of them are really good investigative journalists. Many of them are better educated about what’s going on in the world than the best reporters for newspapers. There are some rather remarkable people in the blogosphere. In any area like that there is going to be a relatively small percentage of people who are that quality, but in the blogosphere that percentage translates into fair numbers—there are a lot of very good people out there.
The usual view of the blogosphere is what you find on random blogs. On random blogs you get people sounding off, and they think that this is just sounding off. And they don’t spend much time looking at the right wing blogosphere, which is sounding off in the other way. So the progressive blogs are seen basically as far left rants. And they may be in many cases; that’s not untrue that there are far left rants on the blogs. But the best things about the blogs are the remarkable people who really know what they’re talking about, who have courage to say what they need to say, who get the word out there. These are terrific people—Markos being one of them, but also people like David Sirota and Thom Hartman, not to mention people like Dan Froomkin. These are terrific people in the blogosphere and there are plenty of them out there. It’s a wonderful thing to see and it’s an important resource for the country. But the reputation is not a very good reputation.
I think that that reputation should be fought. The blogosphere has to frame itself to the world. It has to frame itself through the celebration of its best people.
AE: So is this an active support you’re talking about—buying books by progressive bloggers, calling radio stations—or is this a more general support?
GL: I think many things. Things like that. There ought to be awards to people for major contributions. The best people should be held up and praised regularly. I think examples of great contributions to the blogosphere should be collected; there should be a best of the blogs. There are many ways to do it, but I think the blogosphere has to frame itself to the American people in an effective way that shows its really productive side.
AE: Can you talk about blogs in relation to the idea of freedom that you want to protect?
GL: Blogs have everything to do with that. The way blogs can work now has everything to do with freedom: whatever your political views are, you can get out there, write them down and anybody in the world can see them. Not only that, but you can put them on the DailyKos diaries and they can rise to the top if people care about them. If people read them and find them worthwhile and tell their friends about them, who then read them and find them worthwhile, then they’ll get noticed. That’s deeply important. It’s a form of freedom that’s crucial.
It’s funny because the right wing talks a lot about meritocracy. They don’t like equality, they like equity. They think people should be judged on their merits. That’s exactly one of the things that happens in the blogosphere—there’s a system built in for judging certain things by their merits, mainly by what moves people, by what people care about for good reasons, by what people will take time to read. That’s very powerful.
Bring It On! Questions
AE: As you know, I write for a community blog called Bring It On! which has a number of front page contributors and a diary system similar to that of the DailyKos, but on a smaller scale. I asked the community to submit questions and ideas to talk to you about and I’d like to get your thoughts on a few of them.
The first one is from Liberal Jarhead and it’s about gun control. He asks about your argument that progressive values mean guns should only be in the hands of people exercising police duties and says, “that smacks of the kind of strict parent preemptive control that is much more conservative than progressive in its nature. Taking away guns has always been one of the steps totalitarian governments take in consolidating power.” Can you address that?
GL: I’m not against hunters owning .22s or something like that. There is legitimate hunting and that’s fine. Whether people should be owning machine guns or Saturday Night Specials is a very different matter. Those are not used for hunting; they’re used for killing people. Their availability does contribute to deaths.
The nurturant idea is that we’re all in this together; we’re here to take care of each other. I recently heard a very interesting interview on Terry Gross with a doctor who works in the inner cities. He says that the introduction of automatic weapons into gangs has created the same kinds of horrible wounds in teenagers in drive-by shootings that you find in Iraq when there are explosions or people are shot with machine guns. The horribleness of wounds has increased as well as the number of them. The lack of control of automatic weapons is very important if you’re going to protect people who are innocent. Gang members are not there to be a militia and protect against an overbearing government. That’s not what’s going on here.
Also, a lot of people who are criminals or who have records who shouldn’t be owning guns can get them at gun shows. The idea that you might want to have controls on this is a good idea and there are ways to do it without imposing on people who are not criminals and don’t have records and are not violent. There are also people who have mental illness problems who probably shouldn’t be owning guns.
AE: So you would perhaps argue that gun locks and background checks, not just gun control by limiting ownership but suggesting ways that we can be more progressive in our ownership is a better description of your position.
GL: That’s correct. And then there is another issue of accidents. There are a huge number of accidents each year with guns. I remember this at the age of 13 when one of my close friends killed his sister by accident. His father happened to have a gun up a their summer cabin, he didn’t know it was loaded. He took it down—he was 13 years old—and by accident it slipped out of his hands, went off, and killed his sister. This was a matter of there being guns there. It wasn’t a matter of him being a nasty person, he wasn’t a killer, but his father had kept guns around. And then you say, well, his father shouldn’t have had it loaded, he should have kept it locked away—all true, but people make mistakes. You have to account for the kinds of mistakes that can result in death. They say guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That may be true, but people make mistakes, and people aren’t always in their right minds, and people are not always nice.
AE: The next question that I have comes from Paul Merda. He asks whether you’re not just talking about marketing. To piggyback on that, I think it’s interesting that you brought up Barack Obama before because he was just interviewed about a speech he gave in which he said progressives need to reach out to people of faith, and in responding to concerns that he was falling into the conservative trap he says: “You know, I love Lakoff. I think he’s an insightful guy. But the fact is that I am not a propagandist. That’s not my job.” Can you talk about why what you’re talking about is deeper than that?
GL: Frames are normal. Every word is defined by a frame. Words like “table” or “bottle.” What is a table? There’s a mental structure that you use to understand a table: it has a flat surface, it has legs or a base to support it, you put things on it, etc. You know a few things that define tables—the table frame. Contested concepts are normal. There are lots of them, and there are uncontested cores for each of them, and there are variations of right and left wing views of each of them. They include things like harm or coercion or property or justice, even notions like nature or competition. Any linguist who has studied these things can go on for hours about their contestation. Those are just normal.
The question is how they’re used. Frames can be used to express what you really believe. For example, if you are conservative you can speak in conservative frames saying what you believe. Next, most frames are unconscious, not conscious. What I’m trying to do is make people conscious of their own frames and of other people’s frames. So my main job is education. My main job is making everybody conscious of what they believe. But especially because conservatives are doing a pretty good job of theirs, I’m interested in helping progressives understand what it is conservatives believe, what their frames are, and what it is that most progressives believe but don’t even know that they believe.
Frames can be used for propaganda. Frames can be used for marketing. But let me tell you a little bit about marketing because a lot of people don’t know what it’s about and why it’s interesting. There’s a difference between marketing and sales. In sales you’re just trying to get someone to buy something. The Democrats are in sales, often trying to get the public to buy their candidate by their positions on issues. The conservative are interested more in marketing. Marketing has to do with much more than that. Marketing has to do with changing the way people understand their relationship to the world and a product. By looking at what people really need, and what people really care about, and who they are, and branding has to do with identity based on needs and desires.
Suppose you are marketing Nike sneakers. What you want to do is notice that people identify themselves as athletes—as basketball players or as joggers or whatever—and then marketing is saying that this product suits your identity, expresses your identity to someone else, and when you wear the product it tells the world what your identity is and expresses your pride in it. It’s not just selling somebody sneakers; it’s creating a relationship over time with people and the product. I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just describing it. This is how it works.
Conservatives understand the difference between sales and marketing. They are trying to develop a base where people identify themselves as conservatives, as Republicans, and will vote for people on that basis and be proud of it. They will identify themselves that way and identify liberals as bad people, as the other side. This is what conservative populism is about.
Conservatives have convinced many people who have strict father morality, which makes them conservative in at least many parts of their lives, that if they’re poor and lower middle class that they are being oppressed by liberals. The word used is “liberty.” Liberty means freedom in a political context from oppression by an elite. The assumption is that the elite looks down on you, does not respect you, and oppresses you because of your cultural beliefs. This is a cultural not an economic populism. Many Democrats wonder why poor conservatives vote against their economic interest and the reason is that they’re conservative populists. They see liberals as looking down on them, as not sharing their values. In fact, many liberals do look down on them and don’t share their values. They feel oppressed. That’s why they’re angry, that’s why they often say “these people think we’re stupid but we’re not, blah blah blah.” Liberals don’t understand that this is how conservative populism works. This is about freedom: they feel that liberals are imposing on their liberty.
Take the case of private property. If you’re a conservative and you’ve bought some land near a swamp and you want to fill in the swamp and develop the land and build a motel on it. Environmentalists have passed laws preventing this, protecting wetlands. Well, you own this swamp, you want to do something with it, you want to profit from it. It’s your private property. You don’t understand this as part of an ecological commons, as part of something larger than your property, as filling in the swamp as damaging the wetlands, and as damaging a part of an ecology—it’s not part of your world view. And someone who is trying to stop you from making a buck on your private property is imposing on your freedom. Whereas the opposite is true for progressives who see the guy who want to destroy the wetlands, destroy the species in it, screw up the rivers and streams going into it and the outflow from it, as imposing on the freedom of those who want to function within the best ecology we can have.
AE: For my last question I want to ask you about how optimistic you are right now. My co-blogger at Emboldened, Matt Browner Hamlin, points out that the conservatives seem to be splintering over immigration and military tribunals, and I’m wondering what you think the prospect is for progressives to reinsert their nurturant values back into the debate.
GL: In general I’m an optimist but I don’t see very much being done right now by the Democratic Party that’s really effective. They seem to be reacting more than acting positively. They’re a little bit more sophisticated about framing but, as you saw on “cut and run,” they were very unsophisticated. I don’t take the fissures in the Republican Party as boding anything whatever about this election. I think they can patch that over very well. I just don’t see it harming them that significantly in a Congressional election.
Secondly, there’s a terrible Democratic strategy being put forth which is to say, as Chuck Schumer said last week, this is a referendum on the Republicans. They all talk about the Republicans as being incompetent. That’s a big mistake for two reasons. What that says is that you’re going to be quiet and let the other guys fail. That’s wrong because what that does is allow the Republicans to frame all the issues between now and the election. If you’re silent and you just say, “you’re going to fail,” you’re letting the other guys control the debate, and you can’t do that. Moreover, if you say that they’re incompetent, what is the incompetence frame? It says, “you’ve got the right idea, you’re just not carrying it out right.” So what does Bush do? He appoints more competent people. “Well now we have a more competent person who is Secretary of the Treasury, and now we have a more competent head of the CIA, and now we have a more competent this and more competent that.” It doesn’t change the ideology. It’s the ideology that is screwing up the country. And that ideology is being used by every Congressman and every candidate for office among the conservatives. That ideology has to be fought.
Now the Barack Obama question comes up. How do you fight it? What do you say? What Obama does is this: he says there are traditional American values, unity being among them, and he appeals to those values. We share a lot of those values and you hear in his speeches that there are plenty of them. Among those values have to do, as he points out, with religion—there are a lot of religious people in the country. They are not mostly conservatives, and that’s the thing he understands. He knows that most people who are religious Christians are, in fact, progressive Christians, and he wants to appeal to them. He wants to be able to talk to them as well as to people who don’t happen to be Christians and don’t happen to have other religions, but are also moral beings. And when he talks about religion what he immediately gets to is morality. The morality he gets to is progressive morality. Why? Because he talks about the empathy deficit. Empathy is at the heart of progressive morality—that’s what progressive morality is about. Immediately, he is able to talk to a huge audience about central progressive themes without using a word like progressive, without mentioning the ideology, but mentioning what is behind the ideology: caring and empathy. That is also what is behind the values that were there at the founding of this country.
Ideology is important but it is mostly unconscious. I write about it because it’s important for us to understand it. But understanding it is different from making political speeches, and it’s different from talking to your uncle over the dinner table.
AE: Thank you so much from the entire Bring It On! community. I know we’re all looking forward to talking about this interview and to discussing the book further. Thank you.
GL: I am delighted that you’re doing what you’re doing and I’m really glad you called.
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Confessions of an economic hitman:
Monday, July 3, 2006
In the New Yorker, Jane Mayer reports:
On December 18th, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State, joined other prominent Washington figures at FedEx Field, the Redskins' stadium, in a skybox belonging to the team's owner. During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law. This requirement, which was instituted by Congress in 1978, after the Watergate scandal, was designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power, such as Nixon's secret monitoring of political opponents and the F.B.I.'s eavesdropping on Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon had claimed that as President he had the "inherent authority" to spy on people his Administration deemed enemies, such as the anti-Vietnam War activist Daniel Ellsberg. Both Nixon and the institution of the Presidency had paid a high price for this assumption. But, according to the Times, since 2002 the legal checks that Congress constructed to insure that no President would repeat Nixon's actions had been secretly ignored.
According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. "It's Addington," he said. "He doesn't care about the Constitution." Powell was referring to David S. Addington, Vice-President Cheney's chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser. Powell's office says that he does not recall making the statement. But his former top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, confirms that he and Powell shared this opinion of Addington.
Most Americans, even those who follow politics closely, have probably never heard of Addington. But current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration's legal strategy for the war on terror. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share - namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on national-security issues said that the Administration's legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, "all Addington." Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon's deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was "an unopposable force."
The overarching intent of the New Paradigm, which was put in place after the attacks of September 11th, was to allow the Pentagon to bring terrorists to justice as swiftly as possible. Criminal courts and military courts, with their exacting standards of evidence and emphasis on protecting defendants' rights, were deemed too cumbersome. Instead, the President authorized a system of detention and interrogation that operated outside the international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war established by the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Terror suspects would be tried in a system of military commissions, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, devised by the executive branch. The Administration designated these suspects not as criminals or as prisoners of war but as "illegal enemy combatants," whose treatment would be ultimately decided by the President. By emphasizing interrogation over due process, the government intended to preëmpt future attacks before they materialized. In November, 2001, Cheney said of the military commissions, "We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve."
Yet, almost five years later, this improvised military model, which Addington was instrumental in creating, has achieved very limited results. Not a single terror suspect has been tried before a military commission. Only ten of the more than seven hundred men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo have been formally charged with any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, three detainees committed suicide in the camp. Germany and Denmark, along with the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have called for the prison to be closed, accusing the United States of violating internationally accepted standards for humane treatment and due process. The New Paradigm has also come under serious challenge from the judicial branch. Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled against the Administration's contention that the Guantánamo prisoners were beyond the reach of the U.S. court system and could not challenge their detention. And this week the Court is expected to deliver a decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case that questions the legality of the military commissions.
For years, Addington has carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket; taped onto the back are photocopies of extra statutes that detail the legal procedures for Presidential succession in times of national emergency. Many constitutional experts, however, question his interpretation of the document, especially his views on Presidential power. Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School, and the head of the New York Bar Association's International Law committee, said that Addington and a small group of Administration lawyers who share his views had attempted to "overturn two centuries of jurisprudence defining the limits of the executive branch. They've made war a matter of dictatorial power." The historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who defined Nixon as the extreme example of Presidential overreaching in his book "The Imperial Presidency" (1973), said he believes that Bush "is more grandiose than Nixon." As for the Administration's legal defense of torture, which Addington played a central role in formulating, Schlesinger said, "No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world - ever."
Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, who voted for Bush in both Presidential elections, and who served as associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, said that Addington and other Presidential legal advisers had "staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite alarming. He's said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the President's reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant. All the world's a battlefield - according to this view, he could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants! It's got the sense of Louis XIV: 'I am the State.' " Richard A. Epstein, a prominent libertarian law professor at the University of Chicago, said, "The President doesn't have the power of a king, or even that of state governors. He's subject to the laws of Congress! The Administration's lawyers are nuts on this issue." He warned of an impending "constitutional crisis," because "their talk of the inherent power of the Presidency seems to be saying that the courts can't stop them, and neither can Congress."
The former high-ranking lawyer for the Administration, who worked closely with Addington, and who shares his political conservatism, said that, in the aftermath of September 11th, "Addington was more like Cheney's agent than like a lawyer. A lawyer sometimes says no." He noted, "Addington never said, 'There is a line you can't cross.' " Although the lawyer supported the President, he felt that his Administration had been led astray. "George W. Bush has been damaged by incredibly bad legal advice," he said.
David Addington is a tall, bespectacled man of forty-nine, who has a thickening middle, a thatch of gray hair, and a trim gray beard, which gives him the look of a sea captain. He is extremely private; he keeps the door of his office locked at all times, colleagues say, because of the national-security documents in his files. He has left almost no public paper trail, and he does not speak to the press or allow photographs to be taken for news stories. (He declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.)
In many ways, his influence in Washington defies conventional patterns. Addington doesn't serve the President directly. He has never run for elected office. Although he has been a government lawyer for his entire career, he has never worked in the Justice Department. He is a hawk on defense issues, but he has never served in the military.
There are various plausible explanations for Addington's power, including the force of his intellect and his personality, and his closeness to Cheney, whose political views he clearly shares. Addington has been an ally of Cheney's since the nineteen-eighties, and has been referred to as "Cheney's Cheney," or, less charitably, as "Cheney's hit man." Addington's talent for bureaucratic infighting is such that some of his supporters tend to invoke, with admiration, metaphors involving knives. Juleanna Glover Weiss, Cheney's former press secretary, said, "David is efficient, discreet, loyal, sublimely brilliant, and, as anyone who works with him knows, someone who, in a knife fight, you want covering your back." Bradford Berenson, a former White House lawyer, said, "He's powerful because people know he speaks for the Vice-President, and because he's an extremely smart, creative, and aggressive public official. Some engage in bureaucratic infighting using slaps. Some use knives. David falls into the latter category. You could make the argument that there are some costs. It introduces a little fear into the policymaking process. Views might be more candidly expressed without that fear. But David is like the Marines. No better friend - no worse enemy." People who have sparred with him agree. "He's utterly ruthless," Lawrence Wilkerson said. A former top national-security lawyer said, "He takes a political litmus test of everyone. If you're not sufficiently ideological, he would cut the ground out from under you."
Another reason for Addington's singular role after September 11th is that he offered legal certitude at a moment of great political and legal confusion, in an Administration in which neither the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, nor the national-security adviser was a lawyer. (In the Clinton Administration, all these posts, except for the Vice-Presidency, were held by lawyers at some point.) Neither the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, nor the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, had anything like Addington's familiarity with national-security law. Moreover, Ashcroft's relations with the White House were strained, and he was left out of the inner circle that decided the most radical legal strategies in the war on terror. Gonzales had more influence, because of his longtime ties to the President, but, as an Administration lawyer put it, "he was an empty suit. He was weak. And he doesn't know shit about the Geneva Conventions." Participants in meetings in the White House counsel's office, in the days immediately after September 11th, have described Gonzales sitting in a wingback chair, asking questions, while Addington sat directly across from him and held forth. "Gonzales would call the meetings," the former high-ranking lawyer recalled. "But Addington was always the force in the room." Bruce Fein said that the Bush legal team was strikingly unsophisticated. "There is no one of legal stature, certainly no one like Bork, or Scalia, or Elliot Richardson, or Archibald Cox," he said. "It's frightening. No one knows the Constitution - certainly not Cheney."
Conventional wisdom holds that September 11th changed everything, including the thinking of Cheney and Addington. Brent Scowcroft, the former national-security adviser, has said of Cheney that he barely recognizes the reasonable politician he knew in the past. But a close look at the twenty-year collaboration between Cheney and Addington suggests that in fact their ideology has not changed much. It seems clear that Addington was able to promote vast executive powers after September 11th in part because he and Cheney had been laying the political groundwork for years. "This preceded 9/11," Fein, who has known both men professionally for decades, said. "I'm not saying that warrantless surveillance did. But the idea of reducing Congress to a cipher was already in play. It was Cheney and Addington's political agenda."
Addington's admirers see him as a selfless patriot, a workaholic defender of a purist interpretation of Presidential power - the necessary answer to threatening times. In 1983, Steve Berry, a Republican lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, hired Addington to work with him as the legislative counsel to the House Intelligence Committee; he has been a career patron and close friend ever since. He said, "I know him well, and I know that if there's a threat he will do everything in his power, within the law, to protect the United States." Berry added that Addington is acutely aware of the legal tensions between liberty and security. "We fought ourselves every day about it," he recalled. But, he said, they concluded that a "strong national security and defense" was the first priority, and that "without a strong defense, there's not much expectation or hope of having other freedoms." He said that there is no better defender of the country than Addington: "I've got a lot of respect for the guy. He's probably the foremost expert on intelligence and national-security law in the nation right now." Berry has a daughter who works in New York City, and he said that when he thinks of her safety he appreciates the efforts that Addington has made to strengthen the country's security. He said, "For Dave, protecting America isn't just a virtue. It's a personal mission. I feel safer just knowing he's where he is."
Berry said of his friend, "He's methodical, conscientious, analytical, and logical. And he's as straight an arrow as they come." He noted that Addington refuses to let Berry treat him to a hamburger because it might raise issues of influence-buying - instead, they split the check. Addington, he went on, has a dazzling ability to recall the past twenty-five years' worth of intelligence and national-security legislation. For many years, he kept a vast collection of legal documents in a library in his modest brick-and-clapboard home, in Alexandria, Virginia. One evening several years ago, lightning struck a nearby power line and the house caught fire; much of the archive burned. The fire started at around nine in the evening, and Addington, typically, was still in his office. His wife, Cynthia, and their three daughters were fine, but the loss of his extraordinary collection of papers and political memorabilia, Berry said, "was very hard for him to accept. All you get in this work is memorabilia. There is no cash. But he's the type of guy who gets psychic benefit from going to work every day, making a difference."
Though few people doubt Addington's knowledge of national-security law, even his admirers question his political instincts. "The only time I've seen him wrong is on his political judgment," a former colleague said. "He has a tin ear for political issues. Sometimes the law says one thing, but you have to at least listen to the other side. He will cite case history, case after case. David doesn't see why you have to compromise." Even Berry offered a gentle criticism: "His political skills can be overshadowed by his pursuit of what he feels is legally correct."
Addington has been a hawk on national defense since he was a teen-ager. Leonard Napolitano, an engineer who was one of Addington's close childhood friends, and whose political leanings are more like those of his sister, Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, joked, "I don't think that in high school David was a believer in the divine right of kings." But, he said, Addington was "always conservative."
The Addingtons were a traditional Catholic military family. They moved frequently; David's father, Jerry, an electrical engineer in the Army, was assigned to a variety of posts, including Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C., where he worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a teen-ager, Addington told a friend that he hoped to live in Washington himself when he grew up. Jerry Addington, a 1940 graduate of West Point who won a Bronze Star during the Second World War, also served in Korea and at the North American Air Defense Command, in Colorado; he reached the rank of brigadier general before he retired, in 1970, when David was thirteen. David attended public high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his father began a second career, teaching middle-school math. His mother, Eleanore, was a housewife; the family lived in a ranch house in a middle-class subdivision. She still lives there; Jerry died in 1994. "We are an extremely close family," one of Addington's three older sisters, Linda, recalled recently. "Discipline was very important for us, and faith was very important. It was about being ethical - the right thing to do whether anyone else does it or not. I see that in Dave." She was reluctant to say more. "Dave is most deliberate about his privacy," she added.
Socially, Napolitano recalled, he and Addington were "the brains, or nerds." Addington stood out for wearing black socks with shorts. He and his friends were not particularly athletic, and they liked to play poker all night on weekends, stopping early in the morning for breakfast. Their circle included some girls, until the boys found them "too distracting to our interest in cards," Napolitano recalled.
When he and Addington were in high school, Napolitano said, the Vietnam War was in its final stages, and "there was a certain amount of 'Challenge authority' and alcohol and drugs, but they weren't issues in our group." Addington's high-school history teacher, Irwin Hoffman, whom Napolitano recalled as wonderful, exacting, and "a flaming liberal," said that Addington felt strongly that America "should have stayed and won the Vietnam War, despite the fact that we were losing." Hoffman, who is retired, added, "The boy seemed terribly, terribly bright. He wrote well, and he was very verbal, not at all reluctant to express his opinions. He was pleasant and quite handsome. He also had a very strong sarcastic streak. He was scornful of anyone who said anything that was naïve, or less than bright. His sneers were almost palpable."
Addington graduated in 1974, the year that Nixon resigned. In the aftermath of Watergate, liberal Democratic reformers imposed tighter restraints on the President and reined in the C.I.A., whose excesses were critiqued in congressional hearings, led by Senator Frank Church and Representative Otis Pike, that exposed details of assassination plots, coup attempts, mind-control experiments, and domestic spying. Congress passed a series of measures aimed at reinvigorating the system of checks and balances, including an expanded Freedom of Information Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law requiring judicial review before foreign suspects inside the country could be wiretapped. It also created the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which oversee all covert C.I.A. activities.
After high school, Addington pursued an ambition that he had had for years: to join the military. Rather than attending West Point, as his father had, he enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis. But he dropped out before the end of his freshman year. He went home and, according to Napolitano, worked in a Long John Silver's restaurant. "The academy wasn't academically challenging enough for him," Napolitano said.
Addington went to Georgetown University, graduating summa cum laude, in 1978, from the school of foreign service; he went on to earn honors at Duke Law School. After graduating, in 1981, he married Linda Werling, a graduate student in pharmacology. The marriage ended in divorce. His current wife, Cynthia, takes care of their three girls full-time.
Soon after leaving Duke, Addington started his first job, in the general counsel's office at the C.I.A. A former top agency lawyer who later worked with Addington said that Addington strongly opposed the reform movements that followed Vietnam and Watergate. "Addington was too young to be fully affected by the Vietnam War," the lawyer said. "He was shaped by the postwar, post-Watergate years instead. He thought the Presidency was too weakened. He's a believer that in foreign policy the executive is meant to be quite powerful."
These views were shared by Dick Cheney, who served as chief of staff in the Ford Administration. "On a range of executive-power issues, Cheney thought that Presidents from Nixon onward yielded too quickly," Michael J. Malbin, a political scientist who has advised Cheney on the issue of executive power, said. Kenneth Adelman, who was a high-ranking Pentagon official under Ford, said that the fall of Saigon, in 1975, was "very painful for Dick. He believed that Vietnam could have been saved - maybe - if Congress hadn't cut off funding. He was against that kind of interference."
Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who has spent considerable time working with Cheney and Addington in recent years, believes that they are still fighting Watergate. "They're focussed on restoring the Nixon Presidency," she said. "They've persuaded themselves that, following Nixon, things went all wrong." She said that in meetings Addington is always courtly and pleasant. But when it comes to accommodating Congress "his answer is always no."
In a revealing interview that Cheney gave last December to reporters travelling with him to Oman, he explained, "I do have the view that over the years there had been an erosion of Presidential power and authority. . . . A lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam both, in the seventies, served to erode the authority I think the President needs." Further, Cheney explained, it was his express aim to restore the balance of power. The President needed to be able to act as Alexander Hamilton had described it in the Federalist Papers, with "secrecy" and "despatch" - especially, Cheney said, "in the day and age we live in ... with the threats we face." He added, "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think the world we live in demands it."
At the C.I.A., where Addington spent two years, he focussed on curtailing the ability of Congress to interfere in intelligence gathering. "He was a rookie, plenty bright," Frederick Hitz, another C.I.A. lawyer, who later became Inspector General, recalled. After the Church and Pike hearings, legislators came up with hundreds of pages of oversight recommendations, he said. "Addington was very pro-agency. He was trying to figure out how to comply with government oversight without getting hog-tied." Addington viewed the public airings of the C.I.A.'s covert activities as "an absolute disaster," Berry recalled. "We both felt that Congress did great harm by flinging open the doors to operational secrets."
When Addington joined the C.I.A., it was directed by William J. Casey, who also regarded congressional constraints on the agency as impediments to be circumvented. His sentiment about congressional overseers was best captured during a hearing about covert actions in Central America, when he responded to tough questioning by muttering the word "assholes." After Reagan's election in 1980, the executive branch was dominated by conservative Republicans, while the House was governed by liberal Democrats. The two parties fought intensely over Central America; the Reagan Administration was determined to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Using their constitutional authority over appropriations, the Democrats in Congress forbade the C.I.A. to spend federal funds to support the Contras, a rightist rebel group. But Casey's attitude, as Berry recalled it, was "We're gonna fund these freedom fighters whether Congress wants us to or not." Berry, then the staff director for the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Casey for help in fighting the Democrats. Soon afterward, Addington joined Berry on Capitol Hill.
When the Iran-Contra scandal broke, in 1986, it exposed White House arms deals and foreign fund-raising designed to help the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua. Members of Congress were furious. Summoned to Capitol Hill, Casey lied, denying that funds for the Contras had been solicited from any foreign governments, although he knew that the Saudis, among others, had agreed to give millions of dollars to the Contras, at the request of the White House. Even within the Reagan Administration, the foreign funding was controversial. Secretary of State George Shultz had warned Reagan that he might be committing an impeachable offense. But, under Casey's guidance, the White House went ahead with the plan; Shultz, having expressed misgivings, was not told. It was a bureaucratic tactic that Addington reprised after September 11th, when Powell was left out of key deliberations about the treatment of detainees. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's aide, said that he was aware of Addington's general strategy: "We had heard that, behind our backs, he was saying that Powell was 'soft, but easy to get around.' "
The Iran-Contra scandal substantially weakened Reagan's popularity and, eventually, seven people were convicted of seventeen felonies. Cheney, who was then a Republican congressman from Wyoming, worried that the scandal would further undercut Presidential authority. In late 1986, he became the ranking Republican on a House select committee that was investigating the scandal, and he commissioned a report on Reagan's support of the Contras. Addington, who had become an expert in intelligence law, contributed legal research. The scholarly-sounding but politically outlandish Minority Report, released in 1987, argued that Congress - not the President - had overstepped its authority, by encroaching on the President's foreign-policy powers. The President, the report said, had been driven by "a legitimate frustration with abuses of power and irresolution by the legislative branch." The Minority Report sanctioned the President's actions to a surprising degree, considering the number of criminal charges that resulted from the scandal. The report also defended the legality of ignoring congressional intelligence oversight, arguing that "the President has the Constitutional and statutory authority to withhold notifying Congress of covert actions under rare conditions." And it condemned "legislative hostage taking," noting that "Congress must realize ... that the power of the purse does not make it supreme" in matters of war. In his December interview with reporters, Cheney proudly cited this document. "If you want reference to an obscure text, go look at the minority views that were filed in the Iran-Contra committee, the Iran-Contra report, in about 1987," he said. "Part of the argument was whether the President had the authority to do what was done in the Reagan years."
Addington and Cheney became a formidable team, but it was soon clear that Addington would not join Cheney as a politician. Adelman recalled Addington's personality as "dour," adding that, "unlike with Dick, I never saw much of a sense of humor. Cheney can be witty and funny. David is sober. I didn't see him at social events much." But, he added, "Dick wasn't looking for friends at work. He was looking for performance. And David delivers. He's efficient and dedicated. He's a doer." He went on, "Cheney's not a lawyer, so he would defer to David on the law."
In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Cheney Secretary of Defense. Cheney hired Addington first as his special assistant and, later, as the Pentagon's general counsel. At the Pentagon, Addington became widely known as Cheney's gatekeeper - a stickler for process who controlled the flow of documents to his boss. Using a red felt-tipped pen, he covered his colleagues' memos with comments before returning them for rewrites. His editing invariably made arguments sharper, smarter, and more firm in their defense of Cheney's executive powers, a former military official who worked with him said.
At the Pentagon, Addington took a particular interest in the covert actions of the Special Forces. A former colleague recalled that, after attending a demonstration by Special Forces officers, he mocked the C.I.A., which was constrained by oversight laws. "This is how real covert operations are done," he said. (After September 11th, the Pentagon greatly expanded its covert intelligence operations; these programs have less congressional oversight than those of the C.I.A.) Cheney, throughout his tenure as Defense Secretary, shared with Addington a pessimistic view of the Soviet Union. Both remained skeptical of Gorbachev long after the State Department, the national-security adviser, and the C.I.A. had concluded that he was a reformer. "They were always, like, 'Whoa - beware the Bear!' " Wilkerson recalled. They immersed themselves in "continuity of government exercises" - studying with unusual intensity how the government might survive a nuclear attack. According to "Rise of the Vulcans," a history of the period by James Mann, Cheney, more than once, spent the night in an underground bunker.
A decade later, when hijacked planes slammed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, Addington, perhaps more than anyone else in the U.S. government, was ready to act. During the Clinton Presidency, he had worked as a lawyer for various business interests, such as the American Trucking Associations, and in 1994 he had led an exploratory Presidential campaign for Cheney, who decided against running. Once Cheney became Vice-President, Addington helped oversee the transition, setting up the most powerful Vice-Presidency in America's history. Addington's high-school friend Leonard Napolitano said Addington told him that he and Cheney were merging the Vice-President's office with the President's into a single "Executive Office," instead of having "two different camps." Napolitano added, "David said that Cheney saw the Vice-President as the executive and implementer of the President." Addington created a system to insure that virtually all important documents relating to national-security matters were seen by the Vice-President's office. The former high-ranking Administration lawyer said that Addington regularly attended White House legal meetings with the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency. He received copies of all National Security Council documents, including internal memos from the staff. And, as a former top official in the Defense Department, he exerted influence over the legal office at the Pentagon, helping his protégé William J. Haynes secure the position of general counsel. A former national-security lawyer, speaking of the Pentagon's legal office, said, "It's obvious that Addington runs the whole operation."
In the days after September 11th, a half-dozen White House lawyers had heated discussions about how to frame the Administration's legal response to the attacks. Bradford Berenson, one of the participants, recalled how "raw" feelings were at the time: "There were thousands of bereaved American families. Everyone was expecting additional attacks. The only planes in the air were military. At a moment like that, there's an intense focus on responsibility and accountability. Preventing another attack should always be within the law. But if you have to err on the side of being too aggressive or not aggressive enough, you'd err by being too aggressive."
Berry said that Addington felt this keenly. "I've talked to David about this a little. Psychologically, it's really taxing to read every day not about one or two but about a dozen, or two dozen, legitimate reports about efforts to take out U.S. citizens.... There's a little bit of a bunker mentality that set in among some of the national-security-policy officials after 9/11."
Almost immediately, other Administration lawyers noticed that Addington dominated the internal debates. His assumption, shared by other hard-line lawyers in the White House counsel's office and in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was that the criminal-justice system was insufficient to handle the threat from terrorism. The matter was settled without debate, Berenson recalled: "There was a consensus that we had to move from retribution and punishment to preëmption and prevention. Only a warfare model allows that approach."
Richard Shiffrin, the former Pentagon lawyer, said that during a tense White House meeting held in the Situation Room just a few days after September 11th "all of us felt under a great deal of pressure to be willing to consider even the most extraordinary proposals. The C.I.A., the N.S.C., the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department all had people there. Addington was particularly strident. He'd sit, listen, and then say, 'No, that's not right.' He was particularly doctrinaire and ideological. He didn't recognize the wisdom of the other lawyers. He was always right. He didn't listen. He knew the answers." The details of the discussion are classified, Shiffrin said, but he left with the impression that Addington "doesn't believe there should be co-equal branches." Another participant recalled, "If you favored international law, you were in danger of being called 'soft on terrorism' by Addington." He added that Addington's manner in meetings was "very insistent and very loud." Yet another participant said that, whenever he cautioned against executive-branch overreaching, Addington would respond brusquely, "There you go again, giving away the President's power."
Some of the protests from Democrats about the Administration's legal arguments and some of the declarations of high principle from Republicans are mere partisan gestures. Both sides have changed their views about the need for a strong President, depending on whether they were in power. "It's a matter of degree," the liberal Princeton historian Sean Wilentz said. "War always expands the powers of the Presidency. And Presidents always overreach." Lincoln infamously suspended habeas-corpus rights during the Civil War, locking up thousands of Confederate sympathizers without due process, and Franklin D. Roosevelt interned more than a hundred thousand innocent Japanese-Americans. "Someone said that this Administration is monarchical," Wilentz added. "That's just rhetoric. We're not a dictatorship. At the same time, this White House has assumed powers for itself that no previous Administration has done." Bush's defenders frequently cite the example of Lincoln as a justification for placing national security above the rule of law. But Schlesinger, in his book "War and the American Presidency" (2004), points out that Lincoln never "claimed an inherent and routine right to do what [he] did." The Bush White House, he told me, has seized on these historical aberrations and turned them into a doctrine of Presidential prerogative.
On September 25th, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo declaring that the President had inherent constitutional authority to take whatever military action he deemed necessary, not just in response to the September 11th attacks but also in the prevention of any future attacks from terrorist groups, whether they were linked to Al Qaeda or not. The memo's broad definition of the enemy went beyond that of Congress, which, on September 14th, had passed legislation authorizing the President to use military force against "nations, organizations, or persons" directly linked to the attacks. The memo was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel who worked closely with Addington, and said, in part, "The power of the President is at its zenith under the Constitution when the President is directing military operations of the armed forces, because the power of the Commander-in-Chief is assigned solely to the President." The memo acknowledged that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but argued that it was a misreading to assume that the article gives Congress the lead role in making war. Instead, the memo said, "it is beyond question that the President has the plenary Constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001." It concluded, "These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make."
Another memo sanctioned torture when the President deems it necessary; yet another claimed that there were virtually no valid legal prohibitions against the inhumane treatment of foreign prisoners held by the C.I.A. outside the U.S. Most of these decisions, according to many Administration officials who were involved in the process, were made in secrecy, and the customary interagency debate and vetting procedures were sidestepped. Addington either drafted the memos himself or advised those who were drafting them. "Addington's fingerprints were all over these policies," said Wilkerson, who, as Powell's top aide, later assembled for the Secretary a dossier of internal memos detailing the decision-making process.
On November 13, 2001, an executive order setting up the military commissions was issued under Bush's signature. The decision stunned Powell; the national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice; the highest-ranking lawyer at the C.I.A.; and many judge advocate generals, or JAGs, the top lawyers in the military services. None of them had been consulted. Michael Chertoff, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, who had argued for trying terror suspects in the U.S. courts, was also bypassed. And the order surprised John Bellinger III, the National Security Council legal adviser and deputy White House counsel, who had been formally asked to help create a legal method for trying foreign terror suspects. According to multiple sources, Addington secretly usurped the process. He and a few hand-picked associates, including Bradford Berenson and Timothy Flanigan, a lawyer in the White House counsel's office, wrote the executive order creating the commissions. Moreover, Addington did not show drafts of the order to Powell or Rice, who, the senior Administration lawyer said, was incensed when she learned about her exclusion.
The order proclaimed a state of "extraordinary emergency," and announced that the rules for the military commissions would be dictated by the Secretary of Defense, without review by Congress or the courts. The commissions could try any foreign person the President or his representatives deemed to have "engaged in" or "abetted" or "conspired to commit" terrorism, without offering the right to seek an appeal from anyone but the President or the Secretary of Defense. Detainees would be treated "humanely," and would be given "full and fair trials," the order said. Yet the order continued that "it is not practicable" to apply "the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts." The death penalty, for example, could be imposed even if there was a split verdict. Moreover, in December, 2001, the Department of Defense circulated internal memos suggesting that, in the commission system, defendants would have only limited rights to confront their accusers, see all the evidence against them, or be present during their trials. There would be no right to remain silent, and hearsay evidence would be admissible, as would evidence obtained through physical coercion. Guilt did not need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The order firmly established that terrorism would henceforth be approached on a war footing, endowing the President with enhanced powers.
The precedent for the order was an arcane 1942 case, ex parte Quirin, in which Franklin Roosevelt created a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs who had infiltrated the United States via submarines. The Supreme Court upheld the case, 8-0, but even the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has called it "not this Court's finest hour." Roosevelt was later criticized for creating a sham process. Moreover, while he used military commissions to try a handful of suspects who had already admitted their guilt, the Bush White House was proposing expanding the process to cover thousands of "enemy combatants." It was also ignoring the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which, having codified procedures for courts-martial in 1951, had rendered Quirin out of date.
Berenson said, "The legal foundation was very strong. F.D.R.'s order establishing military commissions had been upheld by the Supreme Court. This was almost identical. What we underestimated was the extent to which the culture had shifted beneath us since World War Two." Concerns about civil liberties and human rights, and anger over Vietnam and Watergate, he said, had turned public opinion against a strong executive branch: "But Addington thought military commissions had to be a tool at the President's disposal."
Rear Admiral Donald Guter, who was the Navy's chief JAG until June, 2002, said that he and the other JAGs, who were experts in the laws of war, tried unsuccessfully to amend parts of the military-commission plan when they learned of it, days before the order was formally signed by the President. "But we were marginalized," he said. "We were warning them that we had this long tradition of military justice, and we didn't want to tarnish it. The treatment of detainees was a huge issue. They didn't want to hear it." In a 2004 report in the Times, Guter said that when he and the other JAGs told Haynes that they needed more information, Haynes replied, "No, you don't." (Haynes's office offered no comment.)
At the Defense Department, Shiffrin, the deputy general counsel for intelligence, and a career lawyer rather than a political appointee, was taken aback when Haynes showed him the order. Earlier in Shiffrin's career, at the Justice Department, his office had been in the same room where the Nazi defendants were tried, and he had become interested in the case, which he said he regarded as "one of the worst Supreme Court cases ever." He recalled informing Haynes that he was skeptical of the Administration's invocation of Quirin. "Gee, this is problematic," Shiffrin told him.
Marine Major Dan Mori, the uniformed lawyer who has been assigned to defend David Hicks, one of the ten terror suspects in Guantánamo who have been charged, said of the commissions, "It was a political stunt. The Administration clearly didn't know anything about military law or the laws of war. I think they were clueless that there even was a U.C.M.J. and a Manual for Courts-Martial! The fundamental problem is that the rules were constructed by people with a vested interest in conviction."
Mori said that the charges against the detainees reflected a profound legal confusion. "A military commission can try only violations of the laws of war," he said. "But the Administration's lawyers didn't understand this." Under federal criminal statutes, for example, conspiring to commit terrorist acts is a crime. But, as the Nuremburg trials that followed the Second World War established, under the laws of war it is not, since all soldiers could be charged with conspiring to fight for their side. Yet, Mori said, a charge of conspiracy "is the only thing there is in many cases at Guantánamo - guilt by association. So you've got this big problem." He added, "I hope that nobody confuses military justice with these 'military commissions.' This is a political process, set up by the civilian leadership. It's inept, incompetent, and improper."
Under attack from defense lawyers like Mori, the military commissions have been tied up in the courts almost since the order was issued. Bellinger and others fought to make the commissions fairer, so that they could withstand court challenges, and the Pentagon gradually softened its rules. But Administration lawyers involved in the process said that Addington resisted at every turn. He insisted, for instance, on maintaining the admissibility of statements obtained through coercion, or even torture. In meetings, he argued that officials in charge of the military commissions should be given maximum flexibility to decide whether to include such evidence. "Torture isn't important to Addington as a scientific matter, good or bad, or whether it works or not," the Administration lawyer, who is familiar with these debates, said. "It's more about his philosophy of Presidential power. He thinks that if the President wants torture he should get torture. He always argued for 'maximum flexibility.' "
Last month, Addington lost this internal battle. The Administration rescinded the provision allowing coerced testimony, after even the military officials overseeing the commissions supported the reform. According to a senior Administration legal adviser who participated in discussions about the commissions, Addington remained opposed to the change. "He wanted no changes," the lawyer said. "He said the rules were good, right from the start." Addington accused officials who were trying to reform the rules of "giving away the President's prerogatives."
President Bush has blamed the legal challenges for the delays in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees. But many lawyers, even some inside the Administration, believe that the challenges were inevitable, considering the dubious constitutionality of the commissions. The Supreme Court's ruling in the Hamdan case is expected to establish whether the commissions meet basic standards of due process. The Administration lawyer isn't sanguine about the outcome. "It shows again that Addington overreached," he said.
Meanwhile, Addington has fought tirelessly to stem reform of other controversial aspects of the New Paradigm, such as the detention and interrogation of terror suspects. Last year, he and Cheney led an unsuccessful campaign to defeat an amendment, proposed by Senator John McCain, to ban the abusive treatment of detainees held by the military or the C.I.A. Government officials who have worked closely with Addington say he insists that legal flexibility is necessary, because of the iniquity of the enemy; moreover, he does not believe that the legal positions taken by the Bush Administration in the war on terror have damaged the country's international reputation. "He's a very smart guy, but he gives no credibility to those who say these policies are hurting us around the world," the senior Administration legal adviser said. "His feeling is that there are no costs. He'll say people are just whining. He thinks most of them would be against us no matter what." In Addington's view, critics of the Administration's aggressive legal policies are just political enemies of the President.
Yet, from the start, some of the sharpest critics of detainee-treatment policies have been military and law-enforcement officials inside the Bush Administration; people close to it, like McCain; and our foreign allies. Just a few months after the Guantánamo detention centers were established, members of the Administration began receiving reports that questioned whether all the prisoners there were really, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had labelled them, "the worst of the worst." Guter said that the Pentagon had originally planned to screen the suspects individually on the battlefields in Afghanistan; such "Article 5 hearings" are a provision of the Geneva Conventions. But the White House cancelled the hearings, which had been standard protocol during the previous fifty years, including in the first Gulf War. In a January 25, 2002, legal memorandum, Administration lawyers dismissed the Geneva Conventions as "obsolete," "quaint," and irrelevant to the war on terror. The memo was signed by Gonzales, but the Administration lawyer said he believed that "Addington and Flanigan were behind it." The memo argued that all Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees were illegal enemy combatants, which eliminated "any argument regarding the need for case-by-case determination of P.O.W. status." Critics claim that the lack of a careful screening process led some innocent detainees to be imprisoned. "Article 5 hearings would have cost them nothing," the Administration lawyer, who was involved in the process, said. "They just wanted to make a point on executive power - that the President can designate them all enemy combatants if he wants to."
Guter, the Navy JAG, said that, before long, he and other military experts began to wonder whether the reason they weren't getting much useful intelligence from Guantánamo was that, as he puts it, "it wasn't there." Guter, who was in the Pentagon on September 11th, said, "I don't have a sympathetic bone in my body for the terrorists. But I just wanted to make sure we were getting the right people - the real terrorists. And I wanted to make sure we were doing it in a way consistent with our values."
While the JAGs' questions about the treatment of detainees went largely unheeded, he said, the C.I.A. was simultaneously raising similar concerns. In the summer of 2002, the agency had sent an Arabic-speaking analyst to Guantánamo to find out why more intelligence wasn't being collected, and, after interviewing several dozen prisoners, he had come back with bad news: more than half the detainees, he believed, didn't belong there. He wrote a devastating classified report, which reached General John Gordon, the deputy national-security adviser for combatting terrorism. In a series of meetings at the White House, Gordon, Bellinger, and other officials warned Addington and Gonzales that potentially innocent people had been locked up in Guantánamo and would be indefinitely. "This is a violation of basic notions of American fairness," Gordon and Bellinger argued. "Isn't that what we're about as a country?" Addington's response, sources familiar with the meetings said, was "These are 'enemy combatants.' Please use that term. They've all been through a screening process. We don't have anything to talk about."
A former Administration official said of Addington's response, "It seemed illogical. How could you deny the possibility that one or more people were locked up who shouldn't be? There were old people, sick people - why do we want to keep them?" At the meeting, Gordon and Bellinger argued, "The American public understands that wars are confusing and exceptional things happen. But the American public will expect some due process."
Addington and Gonzales dismissed this concern. The former Administration official recalled that Addington was "the dominant voice. It was a non-debate, in his view." The confrontation made clear, though, that Addington had been informed early that there were problems at Guantánamo. "There wasn't a lack of knowledge or understanding," the former official said.
Addington has proved deft at outmaneuvering his critics. Documents embarrassing to Addington's opponents have been leaked to the press, if not necessarily by him. A top-secret N.S.C. memo describing Powell's request to reconsider the suspension of the Geneva Conventions appeared in the Washington Times the day after it was circulated to the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Vice-President; the article cited unnamed sources who accused Powell of "bowing to pressure from the political left." The Administration lawyer said, "The way Addington works, he controls the flow of information very tightly." Addington chastised a Justice Department official who showed a legal opinion on the treatment of detainees to the State Department. He repeatedly directed Gonzales, the White House counsel, to keep Bellinger, the N.S.C. lawyer, out of meetings about national-security issues. "Lip-lock" is the word Addington's old Pentagon colleague Sean O'Keefe, now the chancellor of Louisiana State University, used to describe his discretion. "He's like Cheney," O'Keefe said. "You can't get anything out of him with a crowbar." The Administration lawyer said, "He's a bully, pure and simple." Several talented top lawyers who challenged Addington on important legal matters concerning the war on terror, including Patrick Philbin, James Comey, and Jack Goldsmith, left the Administration under stressful circumstances. Other reform-minded government lawyers who clashed with Addington, including Bellinger and Matthew Waxman, both of whom were at the N.S.C. during Bush's first term, have moved to the State Department.
Waxman, a young lawyer who headed the Pentagon's office of detainee affairs, departed soon after he had a major confrontation with Addington over the issue of clarifying military rules for the treatment of prisoners. Waxman believed that international standards for the humane treatment of detainees should be followed, and argued for reforms in the Army Field Manual. He hoped to reinstate the basic standards that are specified in the Geneva Conventions. This meant the prohibition of torture, overt acts of violence, and "outrages on personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." Although the Vice-President's office is not part of the military chain of command, last September Addington summoned Waxman to his office and berated him. Waxman declined to comment on the incident, but a former colleague in the Pentagon, in whom Waxman confided, said that Addington accused Waxman of wanting to fight the war on terror his own way, rather than the President's way. The Army Field Manual still hasn't been revised, and, according to those involved, Addington and his protégé Haynes remain the major obstacles.
Last fall, Richard Shiffrin, the Pentagon lawyer who was left out of the Administration's initial discussions of the military commissions, learned from the Times about the Administration's decision to sanction warrantless domestic electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency. This was remarkable, because Shiffrin was the Pentagon lawyer in charge of supervising the N.S.A.'s legal advisers. "It was exceptional that I didn't know about it - extraordinary," Shiffrin said. "In the prior Administration, on anything involving N.S.A. legal issues I'd have been made aware. And I should have been in this one."
Shortly after September 11th, Addington and Cheney, without alerting Shiffrin, held meetings with top N.S.A. lawyers in the Vice-President's office and told them that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, had the authority to override the FISA statutes and not seek warrants from the special court. According to the Times, Addington and Cheney pushed the N.S.A. to engage in practices that the agency thought were illegal, such as the warrantless wiretapping of American suspects making domestic calls. General Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A., who was recently confirmed as director of the C.I.A., has denied being pressured. Shiffrin, however, doubted that the N.S.A. lawyers were expert enough in Article II of the Constitution, which defines the President's powers, to argue back. He described the Administration's legal arguments on wiretapping as "close calls."
Others are more critical. Fourteen prominent constitutional scholars, representing a range of political views, recently wrote an open letter to Congress, claiming that the N.S.A. surveillance program "appears on its face to violate existing law." The scholars noted that Bush had made no effort to amend the FISA law to suit national-security needs - he simply ignored it. The Republican legal activist Bruce Fein said, "What makes this so sinister is that the members of this Administration have unchecked power. They don't care if the wiretapping is legal or not." But the former high-ranking Administration lawyer suggested that the situation is more serious than an intentional infraction of the law. "It's not that they think they're skirting the law," he said. "They think that this is the law."
Fein suggested that the only way Congress will be able to reassert its power is by cutting off funds to the executive branch for programs that it thinks are illegal. But this approach has been tried, and here, too, Addington has had the last word. John Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, put a provision in the Pentagon's appropriations bills for 2005 and 2006 forbidding the use of federal funds for any intelligence-gathering that violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects the privacy of American citizens. The White House, however, took exception to Congress's effort to cut off funds. When President Bush signed the appropriations bills into law, he appended "signing statements" asserting that the Commander-in-Chief had the right to collect intelligence in any way he deemed necessary. The signing statement for the 2005 budget, for instance, noted that the executive branch would "construe" the spending limit only "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations."
According to the Boston Globe, Addington has been the "leading architect" of these signing statements, which have been added to more than seven hundred and fifty laws. He reportedly scrutinizes every bill before President Bush signs it, searching for any language that might impinge on Presidential power. These wars of words are yet another battlefront between Addington and Congress, and some constitutional scholars find them troubling. Few of the signing statements were noticed until one of them was slipped into Bush's signing of the McCain amendment. The language was legal boilerplate, reserving the right to construe the legislation only as it was consistent with the Constitution. But, considering that Cheney's office had waged, and lost, a public fight to defeat the McCain amendment democratically - the vote in the Senate was 90-9 - the signing statement seemed sneaky and subversive.
Earlier this month, the American Bar Association voted to investigate whether President Bush had exceeded his constitutional authority by reserving the right to ignore portions of laws that he has signed. Richard Epstein, the University of Chicago law professor, said, "What's frightening to me is that this Administration is always willing to push the conventions to the limits - and beyond. With his signing statements, I think the President just goes too far. If you sign these things with a caveat, do the inferior officers follow the law or the caveat?"
Bruce Fein argues that Addington's signing statements are "unconstitutional as a strategy," because the Founding Fathers wanted Presidents to veto legislation openly if they thought the bills were unconstitutional. Bush has not vetoed a single bill since taking office. "It's part of the balancing process," Fein said. "It's about accountability. If you veto something, everyone knows where you stand. But this President wants to do it sotto voce. He wants to give the image that he's accommodating on torture, and then reserves the right to torture anyway."
David Addington is a satisfactory lawyer, Fein said, but a less than satisfactory student of American history, which, for a public servant of his influence, matters more. "If you read the Federalist Papers, you can see how rich in history they are," he said. "The Founders really understood the history of what people did with power, going back to Greek and Roman and Biblical times. Our political heritage is to be skeptical of executive power, because, in particular, there was skepticism of King George III. But Cheney and Addington are not students of history. If they were, they'd know that the Founding Fathers would be shocked by what they've done."