Unlike many other White House scribes, who would be happy to retire at half her age, and despite the flak, she continues to ask pesky questions and she keeps writing columns critical of the president and his war in Iraq. But like so many of the other more-or-less dissident journalists we've mentioned here lately, she lays out a series of relevant facts but doesn't quite seem to know what to make of them.
Here's her most recent column, from the Salt Lake Tribune:
President Bush and his spokesmen continue to say that Iraq is a "sovereign" nation and that the U.S. is there at the invitation of the Iraqi government.Much as I agree with the sentiment, this is not the word I would use. This is much more fragrant, and much more deadly, than any charade. But then again I am not writing for corporate publication.
At a May 24 news conference, the president also said U.S. troops would go home if the Iraqi leaders asked them to leave. Does anyone believe a nation under foreign military occupation is really sovereign? Not likely. There are other indications that the U.S. is in Iraq for a longer haul than the American people would like.
"We are there (in Iraq) at the invitation of the Iraqi government," Bush told reporters. "This is a sovereign nation. We are there at their request."
What a charade.
The president also told reporters it would be "catastrophic" if the U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraq. And he made it clear that the U.S. would be very persuasive in urging the Iraqis not to ask American forces to leave Iraq in its present chaotic stage.... which shows how sovereign they really are ...
He explained it this way: "We work closely with them to make sure that the realities are such that they wouldn't make that request."
I asked a White House press spokesman whether the U.S. would support a referendum among Iraqis on whether the U.S. occupation should continue. He declined to answer.What can he say? If he says "Yes", that's a promise he cannot keep. And if he says "No", that's telling the truth, one thing White House press spokesmen do as infrequently as possible.
At the same time, Bush knows that his victory in winning congressional approval for a $120-billion war-funding bill is a temporary triumph.But that's not a problem -- this is the only kind of triumph he needs. One temporary triumph after another will get him all he ever wanted. I'm surprised that Helen Thomas doesn't see this.
After all, he only needs to keep the war-crimes rolling for another 18 months -- or as long as he decides to stay in office, if he can swing it.
Time is running out for his disastrous policies in Iraq.Oh, no! I beg to differ! Time may be running out on his term of office, but in the meantime he's still getting what he wants and we still can't do anything about it. And I'm very surprised she doesn't see that.
The political pressure even from Republican ranks is growing for a change in U.S. policy.But it won't matter in the slightest. Nor will the fact that American public opinion is now solidly against this president, and his war -- unless We The People can subvert the will of the Congress, which at this point seems decidedly unlikely.
The New York Times reported last week - and White House press secretary Tony Snow confirmed - that Bush has told recent visitors he is seeking a model for Iraq similar to the American presence in South Korea.And Reuters is saying more or less the same thing at this very moment!
The three-year Korean War ended with a ceasefire in 1953 and the U.S. still has some 28,000 troops in South Korea. A Korean model would mean that American troops will remain in Iraq for years to come. Snow would not discuss the possibility of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.The silence on this point tells you everything you need to know.
We are NOT leaving!!
Why don't we get that yet?
Meantime, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - now under the new chairmanship of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. - is issuing a series of reports about U.S. intelligence and its role in the lead up to the war. A recent report from the panel said that analysts had warned Bush in January 2003, a couple of months before the U.S. attack, that a war in Iraq could provoke sectarian violence and cause Iran to assert its regional power in the Persian Gulf. The analysts also predicted a surge of hostility in the Arab world as the result of any U.S.-led military operation.That may or may not be so, but this line of discussion is quite meaningless, for several reasons.
When asked about the report, Bush replied, "We were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened and some of which didn't happen."
First, we already know the "intelligence" was bogus -- deliberately bogus. This has been demonstrated over and over. The decision to go to war was made in advance of the intel, and the intel was fabricated to give the prior decision diplomatic cover, so to speak.
Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that Bush welcomes the destruction he was "warned" about. The "warnings" would have come across as "green lights" to any sociopathic drunk, let alone one commanding the largest killing machine ever built.
And beyond all this morality, there's the cold hard logic of the statement: Whether or not he was warned about things that did not come to pass is irrelevant.
The president said he made the decision to depose Saddam Hussein after weighing the risks and rewards.But Saddam Hussein is gone. He's been gone for a long time. And we're still there. This is not about Saddam Hussein. Why doesn't Helen Thomas see that?
This was an issue that transcended "the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein", remember?
And speaking of things that are often forgotten, how can Helen Thomas -- or anybody else -- write column after column about this war and not mention oil? Is this a make-work project for bloggers?
Listen, friends: The war in Iraq is not about Saddam Hussein. It's not about weapons of mass destruction. It's not about bringing democracy to the Middle East. And it's not about terrorism.
This war is about OIL.
But Bush won't say so, and neither will Helen Thomas, and so the lies and their half-hearted refutations continue, but we come no nearer to the truth.
[Bush] added: "I firmly believe Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power ... (and) I think America is safer."Again I applaud the sentiment but not the choice of words. Tens of thousands of Iraqis? It must be more like a million by now. But what does Bush care? There are no Bushes dying, no Cheneys either.
Tell that to the families of 3,433 American dead and to the 25,549 Americans who have been wounded and to the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in the war.
Bush said he will await an assessment in September from Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, to determine his next move. Apparently the buck will stop with Petraeus, who also will report to Congress.Or else the buck will never stop at all, as it never seems to do in this administration. In which case the current move serves mostly as an excuse for the president to spend the bulk of the summer working hard clearing brush back at the ranch.
"I don't micromanage the war," the idiot boy can say, "I leave that to the generals."
So in addition to an excuse to head back to Crawford, it's also a slap at the Democrats, who by and large have done nothing to deserve it. But Helen Thomas doesn't see it this way at all. She writes:
The administration is obviously looking for a bone to toss to the outmaneuvered Democrats and to appease those restive Americans who want the U.S. to pull out of the Iraqi debacle.Wow! It takes a lot of rose tint in the glasses to see the Democrats as "outmaneuvered". "Out to lunch" is more like it -- but even that is inexcusably polite.
This is not a bone. This is not an appeasement. It is, just like the most recent "blank check" from Congress, a temporary victory. One of a series. All this vicious little man has ever wanted. Just a long series of temporary victories.
Now, when General Petraeus comes back with his assessment, the decider will have a number of options. For instance, he can spend a few more months deciding to send another General into the crucible for another six months and another assessment. We have no basis for assuming he will do anything else. It will be another temporary victory, against which the Democrats can prattle and posture but do nothing responsible or restrictive. And meanwhile this is still a war we should never have started, and meanwhile this war is still killing people every day, and meanwhile the demolition of Iraq continues. If Helen Thomas, one of the best White House reporters, is leaving out all this context, what are the rest of them writing?
Oh, never mind. I know what they're writing. They're doing the same thing she is, but without any of the critique: just quoting the president and his spokesmen verbatim and letting the readers sort it out. Helen Thomas seems like she's trying to sort it out but she doesn't have a very good handle on it. Maybe she should read Chris Floyd. Then she wouldn't write sentences like:
In a sign of growing desperation, Bush is falling back on the al Qaida threat and the need "to fight them there," not here.In my view the "desperation" is bogus. The president may be "falling back" on a talking point he has used for a long time, but how does this indicate "growing desperation"?
And that "need" -- the "need" to fight them there so we won't have to fight them here -- that's bogus, too! Once again Helen Thomas falls in with the maddening crowd by neglecting to mention two very obvious facts:  the war in Iraq in no way prevents terrorists from striking at the United States, and  continuing to wage this unprovoked war crime -- against people who never harmed us, and never intended to harm us -- provides motivation for people to become terrorists and attack us.
"They have made it abundantly clear what they want," he said. "They want to spread their ideology. They want safe haven from which to launch attacks," he added. "They are willing to kill the innocent to achieve their objectives, and they will fight us."No kidding. But that's not all the neocons wanted. And look what they're getting! And look what they're doing!
Speaking of ideology, Bush should look in the mirror. He bought into the neoconservative ideology which maintained that the U.S. is the only superpower and should dominate the Middle East.
Some of the leading neocons have found their escape hatches at colleges and think tanks and other safe havens, now that their grandiose geo-political plans have collapsed in disaster.Again I disagree. They've gone to their next cushy jobs, via the revolving door of graft and corruption. Their plans are not collapsing. The only thing that's collapsing is the support for those plans among the American people...
... who don't matter anymore. Why doesn't anybody seem to understand this?
Bush and Cheney have made it abundantly clear that they refuse to be constrained by such quaint notions as the will of the people. Did we think they were kidding when they said that?
Meantime, the White House has become a tight little sanctuary for a few remaining hawks. And Bush seems determined that the war he started will not end on his watch.Of course it won't. The decider has decided.
Why is this so difficult to grasp?