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Sidney Blumenthal

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  1. When Senator John McCain appeared at the Conservative party conference in Bournemouth last October as the presumptive next president of the US, the stars seemed fixed in the firmament for him. The myth of McCain appeared as invincible as ever. His war story - a bomber pilot shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, held prisoner for five years and tortured - is the basis of his legend as morally courageous, authentic, unwavering in his convictions, an independent reformer willing to take on the reactionaries of his own party, an "American maverick" as he calls himself in his campaign autobiograph
  2. Bush confronted a popular two-term Democratic president credited with peace and prosperity. Clinton's vice president was his natural successor. Republican positions on domestic policy were almost uniformly unpopular. As governor of Texas, Bush turned his inexperience in national government into a virtue: he was outside the fray and free of its rancour. The Republicans had shut down the federal government twice and impeached Clinton. Bush promised to "change the tone in Washington". He said that he was "a uniter, not a divider". It was Bush who first assumed the mantle of "compassionate conse
  3. At the low point of his presidency, after a disastrous first year of his second term, his domestic programmes out of favour, his foreign policy out of strategy, George Bush has at last attracted an imitator. David Cameron, 39, the new leader of the Conservative party, a fresh face without wear and tear, unabashedly claims to personify the future. He seems to embrace aspects of Blair's policies, so as to present himself as Blairite without the burdens of having been Blair: a "reformer" without a past. His implied promise is to conserve Blair's achievements and continue some version of their log
  4. In the beginning, seasoned political reporters at the Washington Post disdained the Watergate story as insignificant, implausible and unserious. But two young journalists doggedly pursued every lead, helping bring about Richard Nixon's resignation. Three decades later, Bob Woodward had come to embody the ultimate Washington insider. Over the past month, however, he has personified the stonewalling and covering up he once shattered to launch his brilliant career. His unravelling is as surprising and symptomatic a story of Bush's Washington as his making was of Nixon's. On October 27, the night
  5. On June 21, network news reported that the Pentagon had claimed that 47 enemy operatives had been killed in Operation Spear in western Iraq. Last month, the Pentagon declared 125 had been killed in Operation Matador, near the Syrian border. "We don't do body counts on other people," Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence, stated in November 2003. On January 29 this year, the day before the Iraqi election, President Bush announced that it was the "turning point". On May 2 2003, he stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln behind a banner saying "Mission Accomplished" and the next day pr
  6. Using the White House as a machine of centripetal force, Rove spread fear and fused its elements. Fear of the besieging terrorist, appearing in Bush TV ads as the shifty eyes of a swarthy man or a pack of wolves, was joined with fear of the besieging queer. Bush's support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was underscored by referendums against it in 11 states - all of which won. The evangelical churches became instruments of political organisation. Ideology was enforced as theology, turning nonconformity into sin, and the faithful, following voter guides with biblical literal
  7. The unmaking of the president 2004 began on September 11 2001. By September 10, George Bush's poll numbers had reached 50%, the lowest of any president at that early point in his tenure. Having lost the popular majority in the 2000 election and being delivered the presidency by a five-to-four Supreme Court decision, Bush operated as though he had triumphed with a full-throated mandate. From the start, Bush ran a government based on secrecy, handed over the departments and agencies to more than 100 industry executives and lobbyists appointed to key positions, and exhibited belligerence toward
  8. Passing almost without notice earlier this month, the public release of The Civil Rights Record of the George W Bush Administration - the official staff report prepared by the US Civil Rights Commission - whose submission is required by federal law, was blocked by the Republican commissioners. None the less, it was posted on the commission's website: "This report finds that President Bush has neither exhibited leadership on pressing civil rights issues, nor taken actions that matched his words." Bush has held the Civil Rights Commission in contempt since its June 2001 report on Election Prac
  9. 'Bring them on!" President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday. But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the
  10. John Kerry's political education is far deeper than that of senators who have merely legislated. He has journeyed to the heart of darkness many times and emerged to tell the tale. It was not simply that Kerry's commander in Vietnam was the model of the blood-thirsty bombastic colonel in Apocalypse Now. Kerry's combat experience didn't end in the Mekong, but moved into the dangerous realm of high politics. From his first appearance on the public stage, giving voice as a decorated officer to the anti-war disillusionment of Vietnam veterans, when Richard Nixon and his dirty-tricks crew targeted h
  11. By virtue of a deal struck before the committee investigated, the belligerent Republican majority got timorous Democrats to separate the inquiry into halves, leaving the question of the Bush administration's culpability for a second report, almost certainly to be filed after the election, if at all. This unholy arrangement enabled the report to put the burden of blame on the CIA. For months, Bush and his national security team escalated its rhetoric about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But there was no national intelligence estimate (NIE) until demands by Democratic senators on the intelli
  12. Edwards might well have been the Democratic standard-bearer if John Kerry hadn't early locked in the most seasoned operatives in the Iowa caucuses; as it was Edwards finished second. The Democrats decided to avoid characteristic factional warfare and to support the figure they believed could win. It was no judgment against Edwards, whose campaign was indefatigable, appealing in small towns and rural areas that had fallen off the map for Democrats. At the big Democratic dinner in March, where Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter anointed Kerry, Edwards raced to center stage to lift his arms alongside
  13. At the Pentagon, on June 10, while business in Washington had officially halted as the body of Ronald Reagan lay in state, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld convened an emergency meeting on the Abu Ghraib scandal, according to a reliable source privy to its proceedings. Rumsfeld began the extraordinary session by saying that certain documents needed to "get out" that would show that there was no policy approving of torture and that what had happened in Iraq and Afghanistan was aberrant. The Senate armed services committee had been conducting hearings whose corrosive impact needed to be count
  14. At the Reykjavik summit in October 1986, Reagan had agreed to eliminate all nuclear weapons (to the consternation of his advisers) until Gorbachev insisted that testing for the Star Wars missile defence shield be suspended. Two of Reagan's utopian dreams collided. But after the exposure of the Iran-contra scandal, Gorbachev dropped the objection to Star Wars. Instead, he crafted a practical arms reduction agreement, the intermediate nuclear forces treaty. And, despite opposition from conservatives, Reagan seized upon it. With script in hand, Reagan was Reagan again. In September 1987, he add
  15. Ronald Reagan's presidency collapsed at the precise moment on November 25 1986 when he appeared without notice in the White House briefing room, introduced his attorney general, Edwin Meese, and instantly departed from the stage. Meese announced that funds raised by members of the national security council and others by selling arms to Iran had been used to aid the Nicaraguan contras. Anti-terrorism laws and congressional resolutions had been wilfully violated. Eventually 11 people were convicted of felonies. In less than a week, Reagan's approval rating plunged from 67% to 46%, the greatest a
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