Why beat around the Bush? Surrogate President Dick Cheney is
behaving like an oil-guzzling, intellectually irresponsible,
How else to define one who summarily dismisses the promising advances
made in energy conservation while urging the more rapid depletion of
fossil fuel resources and construction of nuclear power plants?
Cheney is a mouthpiece for energy companies like Halliburton, his
former employer, which paid him $36 million in his last year of brief
service as its CEO in a field he previously knew nothing about. But the
company, which prospers when new power plants are built, got its money's
worth when President Bush added "energy policy czar" to Cheney's
extensive White House portfolio, leaving the president ample time to
greet Little League teams.
Ever grateful to the oil bigwigs who made him financially whole while
lavishly supporting the GOP ticket, Cheney barely took up his new civic
responsibility before launching a war on energy conservation. In his
words, the commitment to conservation, endorsed by a long line of
presidents of both parties, was valuable primarily as therapy for
tree-huggers: "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is
not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
Nonsense. Conservation works, and according to the latest government
studies--pointedly ignored by Cheney--it could be a major factor in
staving off any future energy crisis.
As the New York Times reported in its lead story Sunday, "Scientists
at the country's national laboratories have projected enormous energy
savings if the government takes aggressive steps to encourage energy
conservation in homes, factories, offices, appliances, cars and power
The three-year studies by the five national science laboratories
undermine Cheney's shrill insistence that the country must pop for a huge
new polluting power plant every week for the next two decades, lest our
homes and factories go dark. The studies concluded that a government-led
conservation program could cut growth in energy consumption almost in
half, using proven technology already tested and in place.
Such technology is already saving energy and money at Cheney's
official residence at the Naval Observatory and at President Bush's new
ranch in Crawford, Texas. Inexplicably, what's good for them isn't good
enough for the rest of the country.
To ignore scientific breakthroughs on energy conservation is to lie to
the American people about the dimensions of the problem. This is not
leadership; this is fear-mongering that withholds from the American
public sound scientific information in order to justify eviscerating
Indeed, the administration's 2002 budget kills much of President
Clinton's program to improve energy efficiency in building construction,
heating and appliances, savings that would have obviated the need for an
estimated 170 new power plants.
Cheney chose to attack conservation at the very time when California
embarked on a major plan to end its electricity shortage through lowering
consumer demand--a shortage that Cheney irresponsibly blames on
environmentalists who were insisting on pollution controls.
California's crisis is being created by the price-gouging of mostly
out-of-state energy suppliers that are taking advantage of a deregulation
plan hatched by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in cahoots with the
privately owned utilities. The utilities wanted to sell off what they
incorrectly figured to be the less-profitable energy production business,
including ever-troubled nuclear plants of the sort Cheney now embraces.
In return, they agreed to temporary caps on consumer prices.
The problem is that the feds control wholesale prices, which they
didn't cap. Last week, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
finally recognized that it needed to exercise its legal authority to cap
wholesale prices, Cheney blasted it: "If I had been at FERC, I never
would have voted for short-term price caps."
California consumers should remember Cheney's refusal to rein in the
price-gougers come the next election.
Finally, whatever happened to the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
saved by former President Bush and then-Defense Secretary Cheney during
the Gulf War?
The monarchs sit atop the world's largest oil reserve. Wouldn't you
think that since they owe their continued existence to the Bush clan,
they might return the favor with lower oil prices? Instead, US
consumers are being punished at the gas pumps with some of the highest
prices in recent memory.
The dirty secret is that the Texas oilmen in the White House like the
price of foreign crude to be very high. That justifies increased US
production, even in pristine lands, and boosts energy profits, which
doubtless will fatten the coffers of Republican candidates in the next
You can't say we weren't warned. Put two Texas oil guys in the White
House, and they are going to seize any opportunity to grease the palms of
their big oil backers while raping the environment.
Still, it is surprising that they are being so obscenely blatant about
This spring the topic of antitrust returned to the headlines after a long absence as the government pursued and won (for the time being) its case against Microsoft and, in a more muted way, as Ti
Some lessons can be learned from strife.
The lesson here is: Get a life!
So now comes Bob Kerrey to remind us that even fair-haired boys may
commit the most unspeakable of war crimes. Or, as he puts it by way of
explaining the killing of at least thirteen unarmed Vietnamese women, older men
and children by a squad under his command: "Human savagery is a very
Indeed it is, and by the accounting of one veteran of his Navy SEAL
unit, disputed by others, the savagery may have extended to the rounding
up and cold-blooded execution of noncombatants. That's the memory also of
Vietnamese witnesses. Yet even the more benign version of former Sen.
Kerrey--that the carnage was the result of honest confusion--while it may
lessen his personal responsibility, doesn't erase the specter of our
nation's leaders officially condoning wanton murder. It's they who came
to define the countryside of Vietnam as a killing field in which Kerrey's
team did what it thought it was ordered to do.
Kerrey, then 25, and other young warriors were deliberately lied to by
leaders who knew better. The terror of that night is the work of the four
Presidents who insisted the United States had an obligation in Vietnam to fill the blood-stained shoes of a defeated French colonialism.
None of the four who ordered this mayhem unleashed upon a distant land
ever established that the war served a serious national security purpose.
Dwight D. Eisenhower created a puppet government in South Vietnam in
1954, flying in Ngo Dinh Diem--an autocratic Vietnamese exile safely
cloistered in a New Jersey Catholic seminary--to rule an overwhelmingly
Buddhist country. Diem followed US orders in preventing the election
called for in the Geneva Accords that would have unified Vietnam, an
election Eisenhower predicted our designated enemy, Ho Chi Minh, would
have won overwhelmingly. But while Eisenhower left the CIA to create an
artificial nation out of South Vietnam, this former World War II general
drew the line at committing US troops.
John F. Kennedy ignored that caution, sending to Vietnam a small
contingent disguised as flood control advisors. But when his ambassador
approved the assassination of Diem in 1963 and installed an even more
compliant puppet, Kennedy indelibly committed this country to the path of
That was the path pursued vociferously by Lyndon B. Johnson, who in
taped conversations with advisers stated he could find no legitimate
purpose for being in Vietnam, other than to ward off right-wing hawkish
attacks in the upcoming 1964 election. As Johnson told his national
security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, "I don't think it's worth fighting
for." Yet he was convinced he would lose to Barry Goldwater if he
appeared soft on communism.
Goldwater was right when he later charged that LBJ lied to Congress
about an attack on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, to
secure what Johnson interpreted as a declaration of war. In turn, he
dispatched half a million US troops, including young Kerrey, and
unleashed history's most intense air war, with more explosives dropped on
the thin strip of Vietnam than had been used in all of World War II,
leaving 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American dead.
Richard Nixon, who got elected pledging to quickly end this war he
knew to be without legitimate purpose, instead escalated it to even more
nightmarish proportions, including the destruction of once-peaceful and
neutral Cambodia, with another million dead.
Those Presidents bear responsibility for deceiving good men like Bob
Kerrey into thinking they were serving their nation, when what the war
was always about was the poison of political ambition.
That is the admission of Nuremberg-level criminality lurking in the
1997 mea culpa of Robert McNamara, Johnson's Defense secretary, who
defined much of the South Vietnamese countryside as the legitimate target
of indiscriminate bombing.
The village Kerrey entered that fateful night fell into McNamara's
territory of the doomed; does it matter whether those illiterate peasants
ended up the hapless victims of McNamara's napalm or a Navy SEAL's
razor-sharp knife? The difference is that Kerrey was forced to witness
the pain while McNamara, the Ford Co. auto
executive-turned-deskside-warrior, was not. Yet McNamara already knew, as
he would later write, that "we were wrong, terribly wrong" and cited five
honorable opportunities that the US passed up to end the war by 1967,
two years before Kerrey visited upon that village such horror.
The true war criminal, yet to be brought to account by a nation that
presumes it can judge others throughout the world, was that steely
corporate bean-counter who took over the Pentagon and defined victory in
Vietnam by the number of Vietnamese dead, even if they were the children
and mothers slaughtered by Kerrey and his boys.
When Anthony looked at the calendar, he could see that he had only two days to live. Where must your thoughts run when you taste your own death in your mouth?