Hard News by Russell Brown


The Los Angeles Times column by Lawrence Wilkerson, headed The White House cabal somehow escaped my attention over the past week, but I think it's still worth drawing attention to, because it's extraordinary.

Wilkerson, a former Army colonel, was Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 until this year. His column follows a speech along similar lines, and it describes "a secretive, little-known cabal" including Cheney and Rumsfeld that made "some of the most important decisions about US national security - including vital decisions about postwar Iraq." He says:

I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.

And concludes …

Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).

It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.

Wow. Like Richard Clarke and the others, Wilkerson has already been character-assassinated by the faithful right-wing online clone army. Indeed, he will have known that would happen, which makes his decision to blow the whistle all the more notable.

Minneaopolis City Pages editor Steve Perry wonders whether the Fitzgerald inquiry might end up exposing more about the cabal.

No Right Turn looks sideways at John Howard's announcement of a "specific" terror threat just as he's trying to pass an anti-terror bill that rolls back the kind of civil rights good people spent many years getting into law.

NRT also points to David Mery's startling account of being identified behaving "suspiciously" while trying to catch the Tube in London to meet his girlfriend. It ought to be reassuring that the police are watching over the London transport network, but what happened to Mery is the opposite of reassuring, especially given the case of Jean de Menezes.

Although he is clearly innocent of any offence, Mery was arrested and detained, had his flat searched and belongings taken and, more importantly, has still not been cleared: just made subject to "no further action". This means that the police hold his DNA, prints, interviews and other material. Mery, a computer and telecommunications specialist, has acknowledged he is now likely to never be granted entry to the US.

I don't think this is what we're fighting for.

There's a new Fundy Post, in which Paul Litterick catches another Maxim employee on the borrow, in - priceless! - a passage intoning on the importance of "strong, readily enforceable intellectual property."

And Synthetic Thoughts looks at suggestions of BBC content on the Video iPod (looks like someone mangling their words), as well as the recently-revealed BBC archive catalogue project (an IMDB for the BBC as it is being widely described).

Andrew Ecclestone also drew my attention to the BBC's annotatable radio project.

Speaking of which, the Wellington Karajoz Great Blend with Ashley Highfield filled up inside of three hours yesterday, but there's still some room at the Auckland event.