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The Estrada Fašade
The vote on Miguel Estrada is going to the Senate floor. Read Philip Klint's background on this controversial nominee.


Dubya's Profound Double Standard 
Published: Mar 12 2003

New York-based Russ Baker is an award-winning journalist who covers politics and media.

Mr. President, in the 2000 Presidential election you promised to enact policies of "compassionate conservatism," but you have failed to honor the classical definition of either term. Recently, some commentators have begun labeling the discrepancy between your professed policies and your actions a "credibility gap." But when promises and actions are so shockingly in conflict, a stronger term is warranted. On the objective evidence, Mr. President, we are forced to conclude that you are, put simply, a liar -- and, given the particulars of the moment, a dangerous one at that. Many of our allies understand this better than we, and that is why they are facing you down.

You yourself have constantly (and justifiably) criticized Saddam Hussein for saying one thing but doing another. The time has come to hold you to the same standard.

How can you condemn the role of one brutal totalitarian Arab regime in fostering terrorism but ignore the more obvious role of another such regime? Saudi Arabia's historic relationship to Islamist terrorism is far more clear-cut than Iraq's. Families of 9/11 victims have filed suit against the Saudis based on long and deep ties with terrorists, yet these ties don't seem to rouse you to indignation, much less corrective military action. Do you not find it noteworthy that 15 of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis? Can you assure us that strong Bush family business ties to Saudi Arabia don't have anything to do with this willful blindness?

Why do you challenge "axis of evil" countries that constitute weak threats while accommodating the strong ones? North Korea has long been a grave danger to its neighbors. Yet you work to avoid antagonizing that country's leadership, while hastening to war against Iraq. Could this be because you believe that you can attack Iraq with some hope of success but are afraid of the consequences if you take on North Korea? What does this say about your ability to defend our country and our friends around the world against real threats to our security?

How can you decry the threat of Iraq to our energy supply, yet advocate domestic policies that threaten that same energy supply? Your administration encourages waste of fuel on a scale unequaled in human history. Americans make up about 4.5 percent of world population, but use 25 percent of the world's energy. Despite the availability of a wide range of more efficient, cleaner burning technologies, the U.S. accounts for about 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming. At the same time, the United States refuses to sign treaties adopted by most other major nations to counteract global warming. You even oppose sensible steps to improve the gas mileage of the cars Americans drive, including monstrously gas-guzzling SUVs.

How can you insist that your goal is to introduce democracy into the lives of Iraqis while you move steadily to erode democracy in the United States? Even some conservative Republican legislators now consider your Patriot Act a terrible and dangerous mistake. Broadly expanded wiretap and surveillance provisions and a new proposal to check the criminal record and credit histories of passengers before they board planes don't sound very democratic.

How can you criticize Iraq for its weaponry without explaining the role of the United States as one of that country's chief arms suppliers and ardent associate in its war with Iran? This make-and-break cycle is surely good for the defense industry, but what is the cost for the rest of us?

Why does the United States move to punish only some violators of U.N. resolutions? You cite Iraqi noncompliance as cause for war, yet you do nothing about the main violators of U.N. resolutions -- Morocco, Israel and Turkey, all of which are our close strategic allies.

How can you support the notion of institutional legitimacy only when the institution in question backs administration policy? You call for U.N. action on Iraq as a demonstration of the legitimacy of the institution, yet say that if it does not agree, the United States will act anyway.

Why do you oppose compulsory jurisdiction of international courts when the court could rule against the United States, but recognize that authority when you need it? You support the international trials of Slobodan Milosevic and others accused of war crimes, yet insist these courts won't have jurisdiction over Americans facing similar charges.

Why are some occupations more problematic than others? You correctly cite Iraq's 1991 seizure of Kuwait as a dangerous, destabilizing move, yet refuse to recognize how Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank foster global instability, ethnic hatreds, and feed directly into terrorist activity, including the 9/11 attacks.

Why are some targeted killings okay, but not others? Why is Israel condemned by your administration for "targeted killings" against terrorists specifically seeking to kill civilians, while you adopt targeted killings of Al Qaeda members? Shouldn't there be a standard for this? After 9/11, members of the House International Relations Committee criticized this, but you never did explain the distinction.

Why do you consider it unpatriotic to oppose a poorly-justified war, but not unpatriotic for you to have skipped out on your own military responsibilities during a war you did not oppose? You did not report for National Guard service during the Vietnam conflict.

How can you decry fundamentalist attitudes abroad while promoting them at home? You take every opportunity to foster a fundamentalist view of the world that distinguishes between correct and incorrect beliefs. Religious groups that preach an Armageddon in which all nonmembers of their faith will be slaughtered are entitled to federal funds, and Israeli religious extremists in the occupied territories of Palestine get a warm reception, while fundamentalists elsewhere are condemned.

Why do you argue that the U.S. government should have access to the secrets of ordinary citizens while preventing the American public from learning about the actions of our own leaders? You support new invasive surveillance measures, but decline to release historical presidential materials that were expected to enter the public domain, including many documents relating to your father's presidency.

Finally, you say you are troubled by the existence of a leader who was not elected by a plurality of voters, who exhibits warlike behavior and advocates the right of preemptive attack, who threatens the energy future of the United States and who operates as an international bully and ignores the desperate needs of his own citizens. Has it ever occurred to you that this characterization may be a self-portrait?

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