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The Nation

Parallel O'Reilly Factor

I agreed to go on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show recently to discuss progressive responses to Bush. I'm always ambivalent about participating in Fox talk shows. As one Nation reader said in a letter lamenting my appearance on the program: "It seems both demeaning to your stature as an actual reporter of fact-based news as well as lending undeserved credibility to the show."

But I also feel compelled to take opportunities to speak to an "unconverted" audience. Click here for the transcript of the program, but also read below for what I was hoping would be possible when I said yes to the booker.

December 1, 2003 (Parallel O'Reilly Factor)**

O'REILLY: All right, Ms. Vanden Heuvel, is this strategy on the left going to succeed?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I hope it does, because if it does, America will be a safer, healthier, better educated, more secure society. Progressives are uniting, thanks to Bush.

O'REILLY: Well, I agree with your last point. Your magazine's up fifty percent, right?

VANDEN HEUVEL: The Nation's circulation is up fifty percent...

O'REILLY: Then why are only twenty percent of Americans liberals?

VANDEN HEUVEL: That's a meaningless statistic. Twenty percent of Americans identify with a label in some poll. The vast majority of people share core liberal values. Reproductive choice. Public education. Healthcare and Social Security without the profit motive. An internationalist foreign policy. Fair wages and fair taxation.

O'REILLY: The polls show that President Bush's approval rating is well over fifty percent.

VANDEN HEUVEL: So what? An approval rating isn't a blanket endorsement of his policies. Those numbers crash and burn when people learn about specifics.

O'REILLY: So you're saying the American people are stupid.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Just the opposite. They're misinformed, and in some cases deceived. I think there should be a marketplace of ideas in this country that reflects a much fuller range of political opinion that we currently see.

O'REILLY: And there is. Look, you've got NPR, you've got FOX News, you've got CNN, you've got the New York Times, you've got every point of view expressed.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I disagree. Something like the New York Times is basically liberal on social issues. But where's the serious discussion of a living wage in this country? Of universal health insurance? Of the fact that the Iraq war violated international law? These are the nuts-and-bolts progressive issues, but you won't hear them in the so-called elite liberal media. Much of the media is elitist because it usually serves corporate interests or follows the official line. And whatever you think of NPR and PBS, they're no match for it, not only because they too depend increasingly on corporate money to survive.

O'REILLY: But you have the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, bashing Bush, saying if we elect a Democrat, all the problems are going to be solved, just like they were under eight years of Mr. Clinton. All the problems were solved, yes.

VANDEN HEUVEL: You're equating the left with the Democratic Party. The Nation was very critical of both Clinton and Gore. We need to reassert the core progressive values that most Americans see as perfectly reasonable, may of which were not ones upheld by Clinton. This is what the Democrats need to do if they want to start winning elections again. But progressives also need to build independent political capacity, inject some passion and principle into our politics. Hell, one out of two eligible voters don't even vote.**The above conversation never happened--and it's unlikely to on Fox TV.

Never Apologize, Never Explain

Never apologize. Never explain. Never concede. Many politicians--and many Homo sapiens--live and die by these words. But the Bush clan has emblazoned them onto the family crescent. Bush has had a good run of late: US forces nabbed Saddam Hussein, Libyan ruler Moammar Qadaffi declared he would voluntarily abandon his WMD programs, the US economy grew at a high rate this past quarter. All of this has contributed to a Bush bubble, and political commentators are once again diminishing the chances of the Democratic presidential nominee, whomever it will be.

But at the moment Bush's political fortunes are on the rise, more evidence has emerged showing that he deserves less respect than ever. Take the case of those missing weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, Bush said there was "no doubt" Hussein had them. In the months following the fall of Baghdad--as no such weapons were discovered--Bush and his crew continued to insist that Bush had been right to say Hussein was neck-deep in actual WMDs. Then in the fall, chief weapons hunter David Kay reported that his team had found evidence of possible weapons programs in Iraq. (Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has argued that the evidence is not conclusive that the labs cited by Kay were used for WMD research.) Bush and his aides pointed to Kay's report as proof they had been right all along, even though there is an obvious distinction between weapons and weapons programs. And when asked if the administration was backing away from its previous assertions about the presence of weapons (not programs) in Iraq, Bush officials said no. They suggested that Kay needed more time to find the proof. (The Bush crowd has been far more patient with him than they were with the UN inspectors.)

Now Bush--attempting to shift the terms of the debate in his favor--says it did not matter whether or not Iraq possessed weapons before the invasion. In a recent interview, ABC News' Diane Sawyer asked Bush, "Fifty percent of the American people have said that they think the administration exaggerated the evidence going into the war with Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, connection to terrorism. Are the American people wrong, misguided?" Bush replied, "No, the intelligence I operated on was good, sound intelligence." That was a non-responsive but untruthful reply, for the House and Senate intelligence committees (both led by Republicans) and Kay himself have each definitively stated that the prewar intelligence on Iraq's WMDs was loaded with uncertainties. Sawyer continued to press Bush about his prewar statements on WMDs, and he refused to directly address the question, repeatedly asserting that Saddam Hussein had been a "threat." And then he referred to Kay's discovery of a supposed "weapons program" to defend himself. But when Sawyer noted that Bush and other administration officials had "stated as a hard fact that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that [Hussein] could move to acquire those weapons," Bush countered, "What's the difference?...The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

Hold on. Before the war, Bush asserted Hussein was an immediate threat because he already had such weapons. He never went before the public and said, Hussein may have weapons of mass destruction; then again, he may only have weapons programs; but there's no difference. This is disingenuousness after the fact, backpedalling without acknowledgment. Moreover, after the Sawyer interview, the news broke that Kay had decided to quit his post, supposedly for personal reasons. Reports of his departure were widely interpreted (and probably rightfully so) as a signal that he had uncovered little in the way of evidence of WMDs. And Representative Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, noted that the administration had removed "critical people"--including analysts and linguists--from Kay's weapons hunting unit. This was another sign that Kay and his crew were not close to finding WMDs, and it showed that the Bush administration was not taking the WMD search all that seriously.

Which leads to the question: will Bush and his aides ever admit they oversold the WMD threat? Their case gets weaker by the day. If there had been real WMDs in Iraq, wouldn't at least one Iraqi have turned over information on them to the CIA, which presumably is ready to pay millions of dollars for information leading to real WMDs? Even conservative columnist George Will weeks ago urged the Bush White House to come clean on WMDs. The administration ignored his advice. Rather, Bush officials kept saying, wait for Kay's report. But even Kay is not sticking around for it.

Bush's excuses are falling apart on another front. After 9/11, he and his senior advisers maintained over and over that no one could have imagined such an attack against the United States. That was not so. For years, the intelligence community had collected warnings reporting that al Qaeda and other terrorists were interested in launching a 9/11-sort of attack--using hijacked aircraft as weapons--against American targets. (The final report produced by the joint inquiry on 9/11 conducted by the Senate and House intelligence committees includes a list of such warnings.) And there is strong evidence that Bush was told of a July 2001 intelligence report that noted that al Qaeda was planning a "spectacular" attack involving "mass casualties" against an American target. But by insisting falsely that 9/11 was so far out of the box that no one could have done anything about it, Bush absolved his administration and the Clinton administration of any blame for failing to thwart the assault.

Now former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the independent 9/11 commission, says that 9/11 could have been prevented. In a recent interview with CBS News, Kean noted that he would, if he could, fire the government officials who had failed the public. For over a year, evidence has been public proving that two administrations screwed up. But Bush and his aides have refused to acknowledge that. Kean's remarks--which drew much public attention--cast new light on a damn serious allegation that Bush had so far dodged rather well. Kean's commission is due to release its final report in the spring, but the commission--which has encountered bureaucratic resistance--may have trouble finishing its complex inquiry by then.

Another excuse from Bush circles was recently proven phony. In the run-up to the Iraq war, media accounts revealed that in 1983 Donald Rumsfeld had been sent by President Ronald Reagan to meet with Saddam Hussein and broker a closer relationship between Baghdad and Washington. At the time, Hussein was using chemical weapons in his war against Iran. How odd that Hussein's use of WMDs in 1983 did not bother Rumsfeld back then, when in 2002 and 2003 it was cited by Bush officials as a reason the United States had no choice but to invade Iraq. In his defense, Rumsfeld claimed that in 1983 he had "cautioned" Hussein against using chemical weapons. But then The Washington Post reported that declassified State Department notes of the meeting with Hussein indicated Rumsfeld had not raised this subject with the Iraqi dictator.

Rumsfeld then claimed he had discussed the matter with Iraqi Foreign Minster Tariq Aziz, not Hussein. Official records, though, showed that Rumsfeld had only mentioned it in passing. More recently, the National Security Archive found records related to a 1984 meeting that occurred between Rumsfeld and Aziz. According to these documents, Rumsfeld had been instructed to tell Aziz privately that the Reagan administration's public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons was not intended to signal the United States was any less eager "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing." That is, Rumsfeld was to tell Aziz not to fret over what the Reagan administration said in public about Iraq's use of chemical weapons; the Reaganites still wanted to cozy up with Hussein.

So the Bush gang has escaped accountability on WMDs, on 9/11, and on the policy sins of their political fathers. Their cover stories no longer hold, yet there are no indications Bush and his lieutenants will necessarily pay for that. The accepted wisdom among analysts of American politics is that voters tend to look forward, not backward. When voters evaluate politicians, they care less about history than they do about present-day results and ask, what are you going to do for me (or us) now? Will that pattern hold in 2004? No doubt, Bush is hoping so. With the Bush clan, politics is indeed never having to say you're sorry.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S NEW BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." For more information and a sample, check out the book's official website: www.bushlies.com.

Neoconning us Again?

More inside the Beltway spinning at work: Libya's coming clean on WMD is solely the product of Bush's war in Iraq. That's what the Bush Administration wants us to believe. And the Beltway paper of record seems awfully accepting of the Administration's spin. In Sunday's Post, Dana Milbank writes, "It has been a week of sweet vindication for those who promulgated what they call the Bush Doctrine."

Richard Perle scurried to tell Milbank, "It's always been at the heart of the Bush doctrine that a more robust policy would permit us to elicit greater cooperation from adversaries than we'd had in the past when we acquiesced. With the capture of Saddam, the sense that momentum may be with us is very important."

In the Beltway narrative, there's no room for how Libya's decision to permit UN weapons inspectors in confirms that the US can achieve its strategic international goals using tools other than military force--for example, diplomatic, political and economic pressure. Nor is there room for all the work and time numerous European nations have invested in engaging Libya over the last five years. Or of the hard work of the UN Security Council in negotiating a settlement of the Lockerbie case, a resolution which may have had more to do with Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi's desire to reenter the international mainstream than any other single factor.

Nor is there any discussion of why the Administration supports the role of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors in disarming Libya whereas it was so dismissive of the IAEA's work in Iraq. And, how many understand that--as Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Adminstration National Security Council staff member reveals--"Within months after September 11th, we had the Libyans, the Syrians and the Iranians all coming to us saying what can we do [to better relations]? We didn't really engage any of them because we decided to do Iraq. We really squandered two years of capital that will make it harder to apply this model to the hard cases like Iran and Syria."

Libya's agreement to disarm under the watch of international inspectors is a welcome development but it is not as dramatic a turnaround as Bush & Co want us to believe. According to Joseph Cirincone, an arms specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "It's part of a trend that has been underway for ten years--of reforms and trying to reintegrate with Europe, mainly for business reasons."

Let's not allow the Administration to neocon us into believing that Libya's decision is the sole result of Bush's war in Iraq. Instead, let's use Libya's example to call for inspections and reductions of WMD in all countries around the world, including here in the US.

Remembering Joe Strummer

It will long be the fate of fans of Joe Strummer's brilliant music -- and his equally brilliant politics -- to experience a touch of melancholy as the Christmastide swells.

The heart and soul of The Clash, the pioneering punk group that became the greatest rock-and-roll band of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Strummer died from a heart attack last December 22 at age 50. Strummer's death came as a shock. But it was not just the shock of losing a radical artist who, as his last albums with his group the Mescaleros illustrated, still contained much creative juice. It was also the shock of recognition. Though Strummer always resisted the "voice of a generation" label, his death confirmed him as that voice.

When it was silenced, the sense of loss was dramatic. And it has not lessened much with the passing of a year. Indeed, as this Christmas approaches, Strummer's voice is coming at us from many new directions. And it sounds as good as ever.

Over the past year, Strummer has been well remembered. A fine new book, The Last Night London Burned (Ethical Threads), provides a tremendous amount of biographical detail, as well as haunting photos from Strummer's last London gig, a November, 2002, benefit for striking public workers in London. It is a fitting visual tribute to a man who never wavered in his commitment to economic and social justice, or in his willingness to use his music to advance the fight against racism, exploitation and needless war.

But the greatest honors accorded Strummer over the past year have not taken book form. Rather, they have been accompanied by guitar chords. Strummer's legacy has been noted again and again by rockers who understood that their fraternity had lost one of its greatest members. Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and an all-star band performed The Clash's "London Calling" at the Grammy Show in February. There have since been tribute concerts in Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia and, tonight, in New York. Dozens of artists have recorded cover versions of Clash songs and Strummer's solo tunes -- the December issue of the British magazine Uncut offers two CDs featuring more than two dozen of them -- and reissues of Clash albums are appearing at a steadier rate than they ever did during Strummer's lifetime.

What is remarkable and exciting, however, is that new Strummer tracks continue to surface. The release this month of the five-CD "Cash Unearthed" collected of previously unreleased Johnny Cash tracks features a poignant version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," on which the late country singer and Strummer trade vocals. And the October release of "Streetcore," Strummer's last CD with the Mescaleros added a number of exceptional new songs to the Strummer catalogue.

The best of these is a reflective track, "Long Shadow," which Strummer wrote as a tribute to Cash. Now that both men are dead, it is as fitting a memorial to Strummer as it is to Cash. When Strummer sings, "You cast a long shadow and that is your testament," it is haunting because the words ring so true.

A year after his passing, Joe Strummer still casts that long shadow. The sense of loss remains palpable this Christmas season. But, with new Strummer songs continuing to appear, there remains, as well, a palpable sense of possibility.

For the Political Gift-Giver

Thirteen beautiful women versus one hideous president.

Babes Against Bush is taking protest politics in an unlikely direction. A new group from southeastern Michigan, B.A.B. is looking to attract attention to a cause--unseating George W. Bush in 2004--and hoping to spur more people to take notice of some basic facts about the Bush Administration by using the venerable, politically incorrect vehicle of the "pinup girl" as the medium for its message.

Why? "Because hot chicks hate him too."

"What could be more un-American than that election-hijacking, economy-wrecking, war-mongering chimp George W. Bush?" the group asks on its website. "What could be more All-American than thirteen beautiful young women, exercising their first amendment right to thumb their nose at our bozo president?"

The result is the Official Babes Against Bush Regime Change Calendar, which counts off the number of days remaining until "the moving vans pull up to the White House." Lavishly produced in glossy color, each of the thirteen months' pages feature one anti-Bush babe as well as well-informed facts and figures detailing the failures and lies of the Bush Administration.

It's only $11.00! Click here to buy a copy.

There are also numerous good Bush books out there currently, even beyond the deservedly best-selling troika of Michael Moore, Molly Ivins and Al Franken.

Nation Books' new release The Bush Hater's Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency of the Past 100 Years is a great gift for anyone looking to arm themselves with useful talking points on the Bush Administration as we head into the presidential season. It's also a concise, entertaining read arranged alphabetically by topic.

Nation Washington editor David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception, recently released by Crown Publishers, offers a full account of the falsehoods, fibs and fabrications of the Bush presidency to date. This fact-driven journalistic account is a scorching indictment of a man who claimed he would "restore" honesty to the Oval Office.

The Bush Administration did more than lie in the rush to war with Iraq: the pattern of obfuscation, misstatement and half-retraction amounted to a calculated entrapment of the American people.

A new book co-written by Nation contributing editor Robert Scheer, his son and Alternet editor Christopher Scheer, and Alternet senior editor Lakshmi Chaudhry offers the first analysis of this pattern of deception, underscoring that the move to war was a highly managed marketing campaign conducted by a small group of influential extremists inside the Bush Administration.

The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq is an insightful primer exposing the mendacious misinformation campaign George Bush's White House used to secure the support of Congress, the media and a majority of Americans for a preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A new documentary film offers far more proof, if any were still necessary, that the Bush Administration's extremism is severely compromising America's national security interests. Featuringnever-before-seen interviews with more than twenty national security experts--including former Ambassador Joe Wilson; ex-CIA chief Stansfield Turner; weapons inspector David Albright; CIA operative Robert Baer and The Nation's own David Corn--Uncovered is a compelling call to action.

Click here to purchase a DVD. It's only $14.95, including shipping and handling. Putting this film on America's radar is a strong step toward fostering regime change in the United States in 2004.

Finally, make sure to check out The Nation's New Online Shop. Given the rush on our antiwar buttons and anti-Bush apparel this past year, we've developed a full catalogue of new Nation merchandise. All clothing is union-made, ideal for gifts, and can be purchased online in just a few minutes.

The Highlights:

Block Bush Shirts and Posters.

Alfred W. Bush Shirts and Posters.

Antiwar/Anti-Bush Buttons and Bumper Stickers.

(We've also found twenty-five different sites selling anti-Bush bumper stickers and fifty-three hawking t-shirts.)

Happy Holidays!

Dean Takes on Big Media

Howard Dean is making the message of the media reform movement part of his campaign--not just calling for overturning the FCC rules but also calling for breaking up existing media conglomerates.

Listen to the front-running candidate on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews on December 1:

Matthews: There are so many things that have been deregulated. Is that a wrong trend and would you reverse it?

Dean: I would reverse it in some areas. First of all, eleven companies in this country control ninety percent of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television. That's wrong. We need to have a wide variety of opinions in every community. We don't have that because of Michael Powell and what George Bush has tried to do the FCC.

Matthews: As a public policy, would you bring industrial policy to bear and break up these conglomerations of power?...How about large media enterprises?

Dean: The answer to that is yes. I would say there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.

Matthews: So what are you going to do about it? You're going to be President of the United States, what are you going to do?

Dean: What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.

Matthews: Are you going to break up the giant media enterprises in this country?

Dean: Yes, we're going to break up giant media enterprises. That doesn't mean we're going to break up all of GE. What we're going to say is that media enterprises can't be as big as they are today...To the extent of even having two or three or four outlets in a single community, that kind of information control is not compatible with democracy.

****

Breaking up media conglomerates is a campaign that millions of Americans--of all political stripes--are embracing. Perhaps the most hopeful example of this is a growing media democracy movement--working to reclaim the airwaves for citizens. Even mainstream media is waking up to the issue. Recently, Lou Dobbs of CNN announced the results of his online poll about media conglomerates. According to his survey, ninety-six percent of those polled said that big media conglomerates should be broken up. Only four percent were happy with them. Maybe this democratic revolution will be televised after all.

National Conf. on Organized Resistance

The seventh annual National Conference on Organized Resistance--"a space for radical discourse"--is happening this January 24 and 25th on the campus of American University in Washington, DC. Last year's conference featured nearly seventy workshops and panel discussions as well as concerts, parties and tabling space for dozens of radical, youth-oriented groups.

In years past, the conference has played a significant role in coordinating dialogue and strategizing among various components of the social justice movement. This year, NCOR again envisions being a forum for people of all different levels of political involvement with an emphasis on the roots of global economic insecurity. More than 1,000 people converged on Washington in 2003 for a weekend of planning and protest. Click here for more info on this year's events.

Congress--Do No Harm!

Here's what I Sent to The Hill--the DC weekly newspaper--when they asked me to contribute recently to their Punditspeak feature. Their question of the week:

What Should Be the Top Priority for Congress in the Second Session?

Top priority? Get out of town? If not---Do no harm.

Don't adopt more tax cuts that increase inequality and deficits.

Don't adopt an energy bill that lards more subsidies on industry and increases dependence on foreign oil.

Don't adopt an ominibus spending bill that furthers media consolidation, and allows the Administration to deprive millions of workers of overtime pay.

If there was chance of a positive agenda--undo the harm already done:

Pass a requirement that Medicare negotiate best price for drugs for seniors (reversing prescription drug benefit bill).

Pass a requirement limiting media consolidation (reversing FCC/omnibus bill).

Reverse labor department regulations stripping workers of overtime.

Saddam Gone

It is not unheard of for good to come from bad. George W. Bush misled the United States into war and occupation. His administration was recklessly negligent in its planning for the post-invasion period. It has poorly managed the challenges of nation building in Iraq, ensnaring the United States in an ugly (and lethal) mess. And he has alienated America from much of the world. Yet Bush has bagged Saddam Hussein, the butcher of Baghdad.

The capture of such a murderous fiend is good news. Hussein deserves to rot for the rest of his days in the underground rat's nest where he was found. But the apprehension of Hussein does not justify the war. In a way, it is the least that Bush could have done, after invading under false pretenses. He told the American public that it was necessary to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq--rather than engage in more aggressive weapons inspections--to neutralize the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He claimed that his administration possessed incontrovertible proof that Hussein had such awful weapons and maintained operational links with al Qaeda. Seven months after entering Iraq, the Bush administration has not been able to produce evidence to support its central case for war. Instead, Bush and his comrades have increasingly discussed the war as an operation to free the Iraqi people from the repression of Hussein. And nabbing Hussein certainly has allowed Bush and the defenders of the war to push further this after-the-fact justification. Following Hussein's capture, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist disingenuously exclaimed, "The reason we were in that country in the first place are being realized." Not at all. Hussein was found not with WMDs but with $750,000. But what was good politically for Bush was also good for Iraq and the world.

The celebratory tone accompanying much of the media coverage of Hussein's apprehension, though, may be more triumphal than warranted. There was no immediate indication Hussein's arrest would have a direct impact on the insurgency. The circumstances in which he was discovered did not suggest he was playing a day-to-day leadership or coordinating role in the anti-America insurgency. It may be that his capture will discourage the thuggish Ba'athist loyalists who have been attacking US targets and engaging in terrorist actions. And perhaps other Iraqis who had worried about Hussein's possible return to power will now be more willing to support or go along with US actions in Iraq. But it is also possible that if the de-Husseined Ba'athist wane--which would be a development worth cheering--some Islamic forces opposed to the occupation, which previously did not want to be identified with the violent Ba'athist remnants, might feel freer to engage in anti-American violence of their own.

To use two cliches, it's too soon to tell how--or if--Hussein's capture will alter the reality on the ground. When US military forces blew away his two sons, Uday and Qusay, some pro-war commentators were quick to predict a turning point in the war, asserting that this high-profile win for the US forces would surely demoralize the anti-US guerillas. Instead, the counterinsurgency gained strength. Given that the Pentagon still does not have a clear picture of who is fighting the US forces-and why--it is tough to calculate what the snatching of Hussein means in strategic terms. His capture could have little effect on the political transition that has bewildered the White House. Interviewing Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark after the news broke, CNN's Judy Woodruff asked, "What are the issues left to talk about regarding Iraq?" The answer: plenty--such as how to rebuild Iraq, how to revive a government there, and how to end the US occupation. But on the all-important issue of what to do in Iraq, the apprehension of Hussein might not change much.

It also raises the knotty matter of what to do about Hussein. A trial in Iraq? And who would be in charge? The Americans? The US-appointed governing council? Or a trial before an international court, perhaps in the Hague? Imagine the spectacle. Some overly imaginative conspiracy-minded Bush foes had previously speculated that the United States already had Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden (remember him?) on ice and that the Bush administration planned to trot them out as part of an October surprise next fall. That was foolish supposing. Karl Rove is not that masterful a manipulator. But consider how a Hussein trial in the weeks or months before the 2004 election might assist Bush's reelection efforts (and draw attention from the efforts of the Democratic nominee). Who's going to schedule that trial? And will Hussein be given a chance in such a proceeding to challenge Bush's charge on WMDs? Or to provide his account of what Donald Rumsfeld told him way back in 1983 during a face-to-face meeting, when Rumsfeld visited Hussein as an envoy for President Reagan and cozied up to the guy who was fighting the ayatollahs of Iran. At that time, Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iran--a topic that presumably will come up in a trial of Hussein. Last year, Rumsfeld claimed he had "cautioned" Hussein about using such weapons, but declassified State Department records of the meeting indicated he had not.

Slapping chains on a dictator is an achievement. But there remains no reason to believe this dramatic accomplishment for Bush is progress in the so-called war on terrorism. The day of Hussein's arrest, one of the tenuous elements of the tenuous case linking Hussein to 9/11 further evaporated. The New York Times reported that a captured Iraqi intelligence officer whom some supporters of the war claimed had met 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta was telling his American interrogators that such a meeting never happened. (The CIA and the FBI had already concluded there was nothing to the allegation that Atta had huddled with this Iraqi.) And on the day the US military disclosed it had caught Hussein, The Washington Post noted on its front page that "al Qaeda continues to receive ample funding not only to carry out is own plots but also to finance affiliated terrorists groups and to seek new weapons." One might wonder if al Qaeda leaders were watching the news coverage of Hussein's capture and snickering, "Suckers."

The war on terrorism's number-one distraction has now been taken out. Let the Iraqis celebrate. Let Hussein be punished to the max--though no punishment devised by mortals can fit his crimes. Let Bush and his crew do a modest victory dance. But let us not forget that Hussein--as brutal as he was--was not the main threat to America and that his capture does not guarantee success in Iraq or the (more correctly named) war against al Qaeda.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S NEW BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." For more information and a sample, check out the book's official website: www.bushlies.com.