Dubya's Dallas: Into the Belly of the Beast

The hellish-hot weather
persuaded me that I was wise to ignore the caution expressed by a close friend
who grew up in Dallas, as I set off to give talks there. Better wear a
bulletproof vest, he told me.

was, nonetheless, feeling a bit anxious, given what had happened during my last
major speech there, when I addressed the World Affairs Council of Greater
Dallas on Jan. 20, 2004. Then my topic was "Intelligence and War: Lessons From
the Recent Past," and I was very intentional about being, well, fair and
balanced in devoting equal time to listing the baleful lies of two Texans -
Lyndon Baines Johnson and George W. Bush - both of whom got a lot of people
killed in unnecessary war.

even reached back into history to enlist help from a former president whom Bush
had called his favorite - Teddy Roosevelt, who said:

"To announce that there is
to be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president
right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but morally treasonable to
the American people."

it to say that my attempt at evenhandedness failed miserably, even though I
used up a lot of precious time rehearsing LBJ's perfidy on Vietnam -
dissecting, in particular, his exploitation of dubious intelligence regarding
the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident of Aug. 4, 1964. I gave pride of place to that
well deserved castigation before I delved into a reconstruction of what was
already discernible as of January 2004 with respect to the lies told by George
W. Bush to "justify" attacking Iraq exactly 10 months before.

so maybe I laid it on a little thick in citing what Nazi war criminal Hermann
Goering told his American interrogator in Nuremberg:

"Naturally, the common
people do not want war. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of
a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the
people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a
Parliament or a communist dictatorship....

"The people can always be
brought to do the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is
tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of
patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any

executives and other Dallas insiders in the audience took that as a signal to
bolt - and did. One of the early departed, Herbert Hunt of the Hunt Oil family
expressed chagrin at having been tricked into attending on false pretenses. He
told an associate that, hearing of my continuing friendship with George Herbert
Walker Bush, he was deceived into thinking I was "one of us."

the Q & A session after my presentation, the World Affairs Council
president at the time, Jim Falk, was icily proper. It was not until much later
that I learned that he labeled my speech "awful," and that the WAC Executive
Committee member who had invited me became the target of a whispering campaign
for not really being "one of us." My inviter was declared persona non grata and removed from the
Executive Committee.

had made what I thought was an honest effort to be fair and balanced but,
clearly, my attempt had fallen far short in Dallas.

This Time It Would be Different

five and a half years later, the task of exposing lies and spreading some truth
around had become much less daunting, given the abundant material that had
become available in the interim. And Dallas seemed the ideal place to do so,
since George W. Bush had just moved in, causing not a ripple of concern - much
less disapproval - among the indigenous, so to speak.

far from the embarrassment I thought I would encounter among Dallasites over
having a suspect war criminal as neighbor, the vast majority seemed utterly
pleased - with one notable exception. There were recurrent complaints over
inconvenient delays on the golf course, when the former president and his
friends insisted on playing through.

George nor Laura Bush came to the Dallas Peace Center dinner at which I spoke
on July 9 (although I extended them a cordial invitation).
And the nouveau riche were
conspicuously absent. Fine by me. Except for a few predictable grimaces when I
mentioned the dangerous Israel-centric policy pursued by Bush-43 in the Middle
East, I enjoyed an audience that was, in Ciceronian terms, "benign [and]
attentive." No one stormed out this time.

week before my talk, I had offered an op-ed draft, "Is Texas Harboring
Torture Decider
," to the Dallas Morning
and the Fort Worth
, both of which rejected it (surprise, surprise).

homework having been done, I rang some changes on the theme of the op-ed -
namely, that a "smoking-gun" executive memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, signed by
George W. Bush, is confirmation that the responsibility for torture is
correctly attributed to rotten apples, but that they fouled the barrel from the
top, not the bottom.

four nauseating "torture
" under Department of Justice letterhead show (1) that the "banality
of evil" did not stop with Adolf Eichmann and other functionaries of the Third
Reich; and (2) that top CIA officials displayed fawning obeisance in their
eagerness to go over to "the dark side." But the sum total of ALL the memos and
investigations now at hand shows with embarrassing clarity that there was only
one "decider" - the one now playing 18 holes in a fancy Dallas neighborhood.

if further proof were needed, we now have the
full text
of the Senate Armed Services Committee report, approved by the
full Committee without dissent, the executive summary of which was released by
Carl Levin and John McCain on Dec. 11, 2008.

conclusions are equally nauseating, showing - among other things - that not one
of the eight addressees of Bush's Feb. 7, 2002, directive demurred about his
decision to exempt al Qaeda and Taliban detainees from Geneva protections - a
violation of the War Crimes Act of 1996, as well as the Geneva agreements.

Senate report asserts that the president's memorandum "opened the door to
considering aggressive techniques."

Conclusion Number One states:

"Following the President's
determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions ...
were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody."

of the guests at the Dallas Peace Center dinner did a Cheneyesque shrug, as if
to say, "So...?" That was encouraging, and an easy segue into What Do We Do Now?

Accountability Are Us

progressives were receptive to the notion that, by happenstance, they may bear
a special responsibility to face into the reality that one of their new
neighbors is, arguably, a war criminal. How does one actually deal with that?
It seems a matter of conscience; ignoring the situation does not seem quite
right. And yet, an American is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

dilemma. Because, those who are not captives of the Fawning Corporate Media
(FCM) are aware of so much incriminating evidence of such heinous crimes, that the
prospect of walking down the street with a, "Hi, George; how's Laura?" really

consensus seems to be building that perhaps Dallasites are uniquely situated to
bring their dilemma to the attention of the country as a whole. How do we
Americans handle this unprecedented set of circumstances?

investigating what happened and, if warranted, initiating a judicial process.

one Dallas Peace Center activist put it, "We are here in Dallas, with George W.
Bush playing golf and living a life of ease, while a library and institute are
built to enshrine his version of history. Our struggle for clarity and
accountability must intensify, not out of vindictiveness but because there will
be dire consequences in the future, if no one is held accountable for the
suffering and devastation of torture."

Dick Cheney now says that the former president knew everything Cheney knew
about "enhanced interrogation techniques." On May 10 the former vice president
told Face the Nation's Bob
Schieffer that Bush "knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized
it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to
the president. He signed off on it."

is not to suggest we have to take Cheney at his word, but is there not a
compelling need to get to the bottom of this? The question answers itself. No
One Is Above the Law cannot become an empty slogan.

so, it was very encouraging to have a good turnout on Saturday morning, July
11, at the Dallas city branch library nearest the new Bush residence. We took
some time to think these things through, and ponder Cesar Chavez' dictum:
Without action, nothing good is going to happen.

dozen of us decided to exercise our First Amendment rights and go see if George
and Laura were home. [Click here for images and here for story.]

you know the best news? As one hardened activist put it:

"For some of those joining
us this was their first such march. There was the distinct possibility we might
end up in the pokey, but they did not blink an eye. It was a small group, but
the point was, we took it right to the belly of the beast. I think we all knew
that we were doing what has to be done. We were jacked!"

pious platitudes for peace. Rather, placards for justice and accountability.
And BLOCK LETTER reminders that no one, no one is above the law.

is, no doubt, too early to know for sure. But it does seem as though a sturdy
group of George W. Bush's neighbors are determined to hold their new neighbor
accountable, and may become an example - a catalyst - for the whole country.

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