Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dear Senator Roberts

Today I sent the following letter to Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. Senator Roberts, who represents my home state, is chairman of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I hope he won't mind my sharing this with you.

March 23, 2006

Senator Pat Roberts
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1605

Dear Senator Roberts,

You have promised many times that your committee will soon proceed to the second part of its Iraq investigation--the part where you investigate whether there was politicization or misuse of intelligence in the run up to the war. I had thought that the hearings were on hold until after the 2004 elections, but we are now way past that and nothing seems to be happening. Why not?

Senator, although you appear to be in remarkably good health, and exhibit a delightfully cantankerous personality to go with it, anybody with a television can see that you are no spring chicken. While all persons of goodwill--me included--wish you a long and happy life, I worry that at the rate things are proceeding you will expire of old age before delivering on your promise. Please do not allow that to happen.

The Congress in general, and your committee in particular, does seem to be grievously shirking its oversight responsibility. A cynic outside of Kansas might conclude that you are trying to provide political cover for the President's missteps. Your constituents here at home know that could never be the case, but one does wonder about these perplexing delays.

Please, sir, for the good of the country, would you get on with it?

Mike Brennan

Copyright (C) 2006 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Making Our Own Rules

In his column entitled "Nuclear Madness" (link; $ubscription required), Bob Herbert of the New York Times complained that the Bush administration's recently announced nuclear deal with India is a "blatant violation of international accords and several decades of bipartisan U.S. policy" that "would enable India to double or triple its annual production of nuclear weapons."

Blatant violation of international accords? Blatant violation of several decades of bipartisan U.S. policy? What's new about that?

It should be obvious to all that the Bush administration will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, no matter the treaties it has to abandon, the norms it has to disregard, or the laws it has to violate. This quality, as much as any other, defines the modus operandi of the Bush administration.

Witness Kyoto and the ABM treaties. Witness the disregard of the FISA law in domestic spying.

The most egregious example, of course, was when the United States took the law into its own hands and invaded Iraq, a sovereign state that had not attacked us, was not poised to attack us, and had neither the means nor the demonstrated intention to attack us.

This was all justified under the thin guise and illogical application of international law. Indeed, the U.N. Security Council had warned Iraq of grave consequences if it did not cooperate in inspections and disarmament, and Security Council resolutions do have the force of international law. But the Security Council did not specify what the grave consequences would be; it did not declare Iraq to be in noncompliance; and it certainly did not authorize that Iraq be invaded.

The Bush administration argued that Iraq was once again in violation of U.N. resolutions, and thus international law. But the United States was itself in violation of the law by invading without Security Council authorization. One can only marvel at the twisted logic that self-righteously presumes to enforce the law through an illegal act. It was, to say the least, a bizarre experience to hear administration officials pronounce that the United States would see to it that Iraq was bound by the rule of law.

Fast forward to the present. At the very moment the IAEA is poised to refer Iran (that other "axis of evil" country) to the Security Council over its nuclear program, the Bush administration cuts its own bilateral nuclear deal with India. India, of course, has never signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and has violated international norms by developing and testing its own nuclear weapons. Bush's agreement would legitimize that rogue behavior and set up an international double standard at the very moment that the world needs a consistent message on nonproliferation. It's hard to see why Iran couldn't claim that it has the right to follow the same path as India, as validated by the United States.

As is often the case, the precedent is as dangerous as the deed. With Iraq the U.S. anointed the doctrine of preemptive invasion and attacked on the most flimsy "evidence"--evidence that turned out to be completely false. Can we now object when some other country, perhaps one we despise and distrust, trots out its own "evidence" for preemptively invading a sovereign state? On what grounds would we do so?

Now we bypass the multilateral framework which has served nonproliferation fairly well for the past few decades and decide, without international endorsement, to begin nuclear cooperation with India. Can we object when China cuts its own bilateral deal with Pakistan?

Bob Herbert is right: this is madness. So what's new?

Copyright (C) 2006 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved