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William Rivers Pitt: The Wack-Pack

The Wack-Pack

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
From: l

Tuesday 14 February 2006

The bar I spend my time in enjoys the patronage of quite a cast of characters. My friends and I refer to this crew as the Wack-Pack. On any given night you might see The Eater, Moleman, Mumbles, Shiny, Suspicious Facial Hair Guy, Earth Pig and The Crotch-Grabber, among others, bellied up before a beer. There is always a buzz when one of the Pack walks in; it's a fair bet that, soon enough, something strange will transpire.

As odd as these folks are, they are straight-up sane and normal compared to the goofballs, idiots, freaks and out-and-out maniacs who are staffing the current administration in Washington. I'll take Earth Pig any day over Dick Cheney, who actually blasted a hunting partner in the face with a shotgun down in Texas this weekend. For the record, the last Vice President to shoot someone was Aaron Burr, who put Alexander Hamilton in the ground with a pistol shot in 1804.

This gives a whole new meaning to the idea that the Bush administration is quite literally The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. James Brady, who took a bullet to the back of the head during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, and who went on to found the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, released a statement regarding Cheney's prowess with a shotgun on Sunday: "Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him. I had a friend once who accidentally shot pellets into his dog - and I thought he was an idiot." His wife, Sarah Brady, piled on by saying, "I've thought Cheney was scary for a long time. Now I know I was right to be nervous."

I guess the NRA is going to have to change its rap. Guns don't kill people. Vice Presidents do. Though, to be fair, the fellow who was shot survived the incident. Harry Whittington, who took the buckshot, should be thankful that Mr. Cheney is in such profoundly ill health. Apparently, Dick Cheney goes hunting these days with a full complement of medical professionals. "After the accident," reported the New York Times, "Mr. Cheney's medical attendants helped Mr. Whittington, treating his wounds and covering him in blankets so he would not go into shock." Now that's huntin'.

Another famous member of the Washington Wack-Pack is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding warrantless wiretapping of American citizens authorized by Mr. Bush, said, "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."

Really. George Washington authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale than what the National Security Agency is capable of today. How did he do this in an age when the whale-oil lamp was the height of technology? Did he use the old two-cans-and-some-string wiretap trick? Perhaps he was able to bug the Hessians using Ben Franklin's kite and key. Mumbles and Moleman have said some pretty bizarre things at my bar, but Alberto blew them both out of the water with this one.

George Washington, of course, justified the magical electronic surveillance of Americans by leaning on the broad powers of the Unitary Executive ... except he wasn't president yet ... and there were no Americans yet ... and, oh yeah, the electron wasn't discovered until 1897. Whatever to all that. If the president does it, it can't be illegal ... or impossible, for that matter.

Perhaps the wackiest of the Washington Wack-Pack is Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who actually had the gall last week to suggest that weapons of mass destruction were going to be found in Iraq. He said this in front of the National Press Club, no less. "I don't know what we'll find in the months and years ahead," said Rumsfeld. "It could be anything."

Right. It could be anything, except peace or an exit strategy or democracy or freedom. The 26,000 liters of anthrax, the 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, the 500 tons which is one million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, the 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, the mobile biological weapons labs, the al Qaeda connections to 9/11 and the uranium from Niger for use in Iraq's robust nuclear weapons program that Mr. Bush told us about in his January 2003 State of the Union address are definitely still out there ... but somehow, tens of thousands of American soldiers over there, the intelligence professionals over there, the contractors and the Iraqi police have managed not to find any of it in the 1,061 days since the invasion was first undertaken. Only The Eater could equal this mouthful from Mr. Rumsfeld.

It's funny, but it isn't funny. This is the Wack-Pack that cherry-picked intelligence data to justify a decision to invade Iraq that had already been made, according to former CIA agent Paul Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. Four more American soldiers were killed yesterday by a roadside bomb, bringing the death toll to 2,267. The wounded number in the tens of thousands, and the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed have become, simply, obscene.

This is the Wack-Pack that basically stood back and allowed the city of New Orleans to be destroyed. Michael Brown, the now-disgraced former head of FEMA, testified last week that he alerted senior White House officials, including chief of staff Andy Card, that the levees had broken on the Monday it happened. The Bush White House, however, claims they didn't hear about it until the next day. Mr. Bush was too busy strumming a guitar and making erstwhile campaign appearances to be bothered with something as piddling as the loss of a major American city.

This is the Wack-Pack that authorized the exposure of a deep-cover CIA agent in order to cover their backsides and eliminate a critic of the war. Lewis Libby has testified to a grand jury that he was authorized by his superiors to expose the name of Valerie Plame in June and July of 2003. This was done after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, shredded the administration's "uranium from Niger" war rationale in the editorial pages of the New York Times. Libby served as Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, so when he refers to being authorized to leak Plame's name by his "superiors," you can bet he is talking about none other than Ol' Shotgun Dick himself.

It's funny, but it isn't funny. Not really. Not at all.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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