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Marionettes of the Russian Potudan group perform during the show "Nensky Avenue" at the X Iberoamerican Theater Festival in Bogota, Colombia April 5, 2006/Reuters

Dispatches: Betrayals Now and Then
Puppeteering a Kiss-Ass Press

For a time it looked as if the dominating non-event of the day was going to be the U.S. Senate’s impending vote on an alleged “compromise” that would put “millions” of Mexicans on the path to American citizenship (an assumption half-pregnant with arrogance: why do these lawmakers think Mexicans’ priority is citizenship, as opposed to livelihood?). I call it a non-event because whatever the Senate decides will either die in an eventual absence of agreement with the House of Representatives, or, should it become law, will result in an administrative nightmare that will have every migrant crossing the border carrying a copy of Kafka’s Castle with him, as a primer on the Department of Homeland Security’s morbid ways and means. Then the other non-event of the day broke: the allegation, by the Vice of Darkness’ former chief of staff “Scooter” Libby, that Bush authorized the leak of classified Iraq war intelligence in order to rebut a CIA analyst’s debunking of Iraqi nuclear threats. This, too, is a non-story that will garner all the headlines in the morning because the White House spin dervishes, along with a compliant press, will do to it what they did with the story about Bush being told, twenty-four hours before Katrina hit, of the potential disaster should the levees be overrun: Semantics silenced the smoking gun. Bush didn’t react about Katrina, you see, because his pals only warned about levees being topped, not breached. Big, huge difference (regardless of the disaster that did actually happen while Bush was gallivanting around Arizona and California, chatting up Medicare and one more military memorial, while his Vice of Darkness might as well have been on the dark side of the Moon and his Secretary of State was shoe-shopping in Manhattan). In this “breaking” CIA case, the dervishes will swarm around the convenient distinction, so well spelled out by the Washington Post, that although Libby “gave a reporter sensitive information from a secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in a July 2003 conversation with the president’s approval, he did not disclose the CIA employment of Valerie Plame.” Missed, of course, will be the Lord and Savior president’s role as deceiver-in-chief. Missed, of course, will be the obvious: the naming of names is unnecessary when a couple of dots are so easily connected by a press corps always eager to serve the White House’s ends. Missed, too, will be, as always, the continuingly mysterious role of Robert Novak, first to print Plame’s name, and last to be held to account for his seemingly conspiratorial role on the White House’s behalf. Missed, too, will be the ongoing proof, in Iraq and elsewhere, of the president’s pathological lies. But this is beginning to sound repetitive.

This isn’t: the more consequential stories of the day were not quite on American news sites’ front pages, webbed or otherwise. Condi Rice, it turns out, “normally confident, erudite and knowledgeable in her field, wilted under questioning about the Indo-US nuclear deal on Capitol Hill today as it became clear that Senators were less concerned about the content of the deal than with losing their power to regulate American nuclear trade with India.” But to know about this one would have had to be reading the Telegraph of India out of Calcutta. The nukes deal, of course, shatters Bush’s credibility as a leader against non-proliferation and encourages other nations, Saudi Arabia among them, to go the same route. The issue brooks little attention in the United States—until the day when a rogue nuke slams in and the old questions arise: where did we go wrong?

Equally overlooked by the somnolent public is the renewed debate in Congress, this time triggered by John Keery’s call for deadlines, over Iraq. Knight-Ridder did a nice sum-up (“If Congress ever turns against the war in Iraq, analysts may look back at this week as a turning point”), even a few Republicans are lining up in favor of an open debate on the matter in Congress. The John Murtha effect, part two.

Finally in this round-up there was the story of Britain’s brave new anti-terror law kicking in, and netting its first arrests. Here they are: Helen John, 68, and Sylvia Boyes, 62, both grandmas from Yorkshire. They were “arrested on Saturday after deliberately setting out to highlight a change in the law which civil liberties groups say will criminalise free speech and further undermine the right to peaceful demonstration,” reports the Independent. “Under the little-noticed legislation, which came into effect last week, protesters who breach any one of 10 military bases across Britain will be treated as potential terrorists and face up to a year in jail or £5,000 fine. The protests are curtailed under the Home Secretary’s Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.” The Independent has a list and brief sketches of other poor bastards who’ve fallen prey to Britain’s Great War on Terror, like John Catt, the 81-yearold arrested and questioned for “wearing an anti-Blair T-shirt in Brighton during the Labour conference,” Walter Wolfgang, the 82-year-old man manhandled and arrested by cops for shouting “That’s a lie!” during the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s speech to the Labour Party conference, although his treatment and ejection eventually elicited an apology from Tony Blair. And then there was Brian Haw, 56, arrested for his vigil outside Parliament, and so on. Enough to make you proud, Union Jack, though it’s all child’s play compared to liberty’s coma across the Atlantic. Amid all this, the news of the discovery of the Judas Gospel warms the heart in at least one way: it may take 1,700 years for an alleged betrayer’s record to be cleared (I’ve always thought Judas more interesting than all the disciples except Peter, and not guilty of the crime ascribed him; he couldn’t possibly be), but once in a while the truth does out. Too bad it may take 1,700 years for those betraying us now, those men of the Bush and Blair juntas who make themselves look so saintly, for the truth finally to indict them. Too late, of course, to keep their betrayals in the here and now from crucifying the liberties they claim to be defending.


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