John Nichols on Scott McClellan’s book; Army Chaplain James Yee, Obama convention delegate; George Monbiot attempts a citizen’s arrest; Mohamad Bazzi’s prizewinning reporting on the Middle East.




Scott McClellan

wrote in his new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, about the Administration’s propaganda campaign to promote and defend the occupation of Iraq was not a revelation. It was confirmation that the White House has played fast and loose with the truth in a time of war. Depending on how one reads the Constitution, that may or may not be an impeachable offense. But McClellan’s assertion that top presidential aides, perhaps with the cooperation of the Vice President, conspired to obstruct justice by lying about their role in the plot to destroy the reputation of former Ambassador

Joe Wilson

, a critic of the rush to war, and his wife, former CIA agent

Valerie Plame

, demands a response from Congress.

When White House insiders leak classified information, manipulate media coverage and otherwise employ their immense power to punish dissenters, Congress does not have any other option. It has a constitutional duty to check and balance an errant executive branch. That the former White House spokesman–with his claim that the President said he authorized the selective release of classified information to reporters covering the Wilson story–links the wrongdoing directly to Bush ups the ante even further. Florida Congressman

Bob Wexler

, the House Judiciary Committee’s most ardent advocate of executive accountability, is right when he says, “Scott McClellan must now appear before the House Judiciary Committee under oath to tell Congress and the American people how President Bush, Vice President

Dick Cheney


Karl Rove


Scooter Libby

and White House officials deliberately orchestrated a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war in Iraq to the American people.” Wexler, who has campaigned for the opening of impeachment hearings against Cheney, knows there are plenty of top Democrats who would prefer that Congress go quiet in this election year. But he also recognizes that if a system that relies on a clear separation of powers is to survive, the evidence of deceit and lawlessness by the Bush/Cheney Administration “cannot be tolerated by this Congress.”   JOHN NICHOLS


Number of US Embassy employees in Baghdad: 1,000

Number of US Embassy employees in Baghdad deemed fluent in Arabic by the State Department: 10

Percentage of US combat troops who are Latino: 17.5

Percentage of the US population that is Latino: 14.8

Pay per day for a US Army sergeant in Iraq: $71.53

Pay per day for a Blackwater “protective security specialist”: $1,221.62

Pay per day for General Petraeus: $493.15

Pay per day for a Sunni militia fighter in Anbar province: $16   DAVE MORRIS


British activist and author

George Monbiot

, who pens a weekly column for the Guardian, recently attempted a citizen’s arrest of neocon war hawk and former ambassador to the UN

John Bolton

at the annual

Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts

in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. Monbiot was thwarted by what he calls “two of the biggest gorillas I have ever seen.” Despite his “humiliating” tangle with security guards, Monbiot remains undeterred; he has mentioned pursuing a similar course with former British Prime Minister

Tony Blair

and wrote about l’affaire Bolton on the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free blog:

“I had no intention of arresting John Bolton, the former under-secretary of state at the US state department, when I arrived at the Hay festival. But during a panel discussion about the Iraq war, I remarked that the greatest crime of the 21st century had become so normalised that one of its authors was due to visit the festival to promote his book. I proposed that someone should attempt a citizens’ arrest, in the hope of instilling a fear of punishment among those who plan illegal wars. After the session I realised that I couldn’t call on other people to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself….

“The Nuremberg principles, which arose from the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, define as an international crime the ‘planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.’ Bolton appears to have ‘participated in a common plan’ to prepare for the war (also defined by the principles as a crime) by inserting the false claim that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Niger into a state department factsheet….

“Demonstration has two meanings. Non-violent direct action is both a protest and an exposition. It seeks to demonstrate truths which have been overlooked or forgotten. I sought to remind people that the greatest crime of the 21st century remains unprosecuted, and remains a great crime. If you have read this far, I have succeeded.”


We are pleased to note that

Mohamad Bazzi

has won the

American Academy of Religion

‘s award for best in-depth reporting on religion. Bazzi, the former Middle East bureau chief at Newsday and the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the

Council on Foreign Relations

, took first place in the opinion-writing category for two articles in The Nation–“Muqtada al-Sadr’s Power Grab” (December 21, 2007) and “Lebanon’s Bloody Summer” (July 10, 2007)–as well as for a Newsday editorial. One judge praised Bazzi’s “clearly stated and well supported” articles as a “must-read for anyone trying to understand the political situation in the Middle East.” Cheers to Bazzi!


Army chaplain

James Yee

is headed to the Democratic National Convention–as a Washington State delegate pledged to

Barack Obama

. Readers may recall that in 2003 Yee–who served at Gitmo, where he tangled with officials over the treatment of detainees–was wrongly accused by the Army of sedition, espionage, mutiny and aiding the enemy. After he spent seventy-six days in solitary confinement, all charges against him were dropped, and he was honorably discharged. But the smear campaign continues on right-wing blogs, some of which have taken to calling the Obama supporter a “pro-terrorist Muslim.”

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