jump to navigation

Did Reagan Know about Baby Thefts? July 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Roger’s note: The day before yesterday in Argentina former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (and other Junta members and sympathizers) received a fifty-year sentence for stealing the infants of leftist opponents and then “giving” them to new families. A particularly ghoulish and, for those children and parents, heart-breaking episode in Argentinian history. The fine film  THE OFFICIAL STORY dealt with this grisly issue back in 1985–a movie still worth seeing. Can’t imagine what it must be like for those people who’ve discovered that their biological parents are still “disappeared.” The BBC has run some pretty good interviews on this for anyone who’s interested: Baby thefts and convictions: The Guardian
 
This shameful story about “baby harvesting” in recent Latin American history is not widely known or reported, and it was perpetuated with full United States government knowkedge and support.
 
by (about the author)
 

Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla in 1979.An Argentine court has convicted two of the nation’s former right-wing dictators, Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, in a scheme to murder leftist mothers and give their infants to military personnel often complicit in the killings, a shocking process known to the Reagan administration even as it worked closely with the bloody regime.Testimony at the trialincluded a video conference from Washington with Elliott Abrams, then-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, who said he urged Bignone to reveal the babies’ identities as Argentina began a transition to democracy in 1983.Abrams said the Reagan administration “knew that it wasn’t just one or two children,” indicating that U.S. officials believed there was a high-level “plan because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed.” Estimates of the Argentines murdered in the so-called Dirty War range from 13,000 to about 30,000, with many victims “disappeared,” buried in mass graves or dumped from planes over the Atlantic.

A human rights group, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, says as many as 500 babies were stolen by the military during the repression from 1976 to 1983. Some of the pregnant mothers were kept alive long enough to give birth and then were chained together with other prisoners and pushed out of the planes into the ocean to drown.

Despite U.S. government awareness of the grisly actions of the Argentine junta, which had drawn public condemnation from the Carter administration in the 1970s, these Argentine neo-Nazis were warmly supported by Ronald Reagan, both as a political commentator in the late 1970s and as President once he took office in 1981.

Reagan understood that the Argentine generals played a central role in the anti-communist crusade that was turning Latin America into a nightmare of unspeakable repression. The leaders of the Argentine junta saw themselves as something of pioneers in the techniques of torture and psychological operations, sharing their lessons with other regional dictatorships.

Cocaine Coup

Argentina also took the lead in devising ways to fund the anti-communist war through the drug trade. In 1980, the Argentine intelligence services helped organize the so-called Cocaine Coup in Bolivia, violently ousting a left-of-center government and replacing it with generals closely tied to the early cocaine trafficking networks.

Bolivia’s coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations across the region, according to other U.S. government investigations.

For instance, Bolivian cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including organizing the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in base camps in Honduras, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

Sanchez-Reisse testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, Argentine intelligence officers — including Sanchez-Reisse and other veterans of the Cocaine Coup — trained the fledgling Contra forces.

After becoming President in January 1981, Reagan entered into a covert alliance with the Argentine junta. He ordered the CIA to collaborate with Dirty War experts in training the Contras, who were soon rampaging through towns in northern Nicaragua, raping women and dragging local officials into public squares for executions. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]

A Happy Face

Yet, Reagan kept up a happy face, hailing the Contras as the “moral equals of the Founding Fathers” and heaping gratitude on the Argentine junta.

 The behind-the-scenes intelligence relationship apparently gave the Argentine generals confidence that they could not only continue repressing their own citizens but could settle an old score with Great Britain over control of the Falkland Islands, what the Argentines call the Malvinas.

Even as Argentina moved to invade the islands in 1982, Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick joined the generals for an elegant state dinner in Washington. The Reagan administration itself was divided between America’s traditional alliance with Great Britain and its more recent collaboration with the Argentines in Latin America.

Finally, Reagan sided with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whose counterattack drove the Argentines from the islands and led to the eventual collapse of the dictatorship. It was in that time frame that Abrams apparently spoke with Bignone about identifying the children who had been taken from their mothers and farmed out to military personnel.

The idea of giving the babies to right-wing military officers apparently was part of the larger Argentine theory of how to eradicate leftist subversive thought. Gen. Videla, in particular, fancied himself a theorist in counterinsurgency warfare, advocating clever use of words as well as imaginative forms of torture and murder.

Known for his dapper style and his English-tailored suits, Videla rose to power amid Argentina’s political and economic unrest in the early-to-mid 1970s. “As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure,” he declared in 1975 in support of a “death squad” known as the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance. [See A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz.]

On March 24, 1976, Videla led the military coup which ousted the ineffective president, Isabel Peron. Though armed leftist groups had been shattered by the time of the coup, the generals still organized a counterinsurgency campaign to wipe out any remnants of what they judged political subversion.

 Videla called this “the process of national reorganization,” intended to reestablish order while inculcating a permanent animosity toward leftist thought. “The aim of the Process is the profound transformation of consciousness,” Videla announced.

Along with selective terror, Videla employed sophisticated public relations methods. He was fascinated with techniques for using language to manage popular perceptions of reality. The general hosted international conferences on P.R. and awarded a $1 million contract to the giant U.S. firm of Burson Marsteller. Following the Burson Marsteller blueprint, the Videla government put special emphasis on cultivating American reporters from elite publications.

“Terrorism is not the only news from Argentina, nor is it the major news,” went the optimistic P.R. message.

Since the jailings and executions of dissidents were rarely acknowledged, Videla felt he could deny government involvement, giving the world the chilling new phrase, “the disappeared.” He often suggested that the missing Argentines were not dead, but had slipped away to live comfortably in other countries.

“I emphatically deny that there are concentration camps in Argentina, or military establishments in which people are held longer than is absolutely necessary in this ” fight against subversion,” he told British journalists in 1977. [See A Lexicon of Terror.]

In a grander context, Videla and the other generals saw their mission as a crusade to defend Western Civilization against international communism. They worked closely with the Asian-based World Anti-Communist League and its Latin American affiliate, the Confederacion Anticomunista Latinoamericana [CAL].

Latin American militaries collaborated on projects such as the cross-border assassinations of political dissidents. Under one project, called Operation Condor, political leaders — centrist and leftist alike — were shot or bombed in Buenos Aires, Rome, Madrid, Santiago and Washington. Operation Condor sometimes employed CIA-trained Cuban exiles as assassins. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Hitler's Shadow Reaches toward Today," or Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

The Baby Harvest

General Videla also was accused of permitting — and concealing — the scheme to harvest infants from pregnant women who were kept alive in military prisons only long enough to give birth. According to the charges, the babies were taken from the new mothers, sometimes after late-night Caesarean sections, and then distributed to military families or sent to orphanages.

After the babies were pulled away, the mothers were removed to another site for their executions. Some were put aboard death flights and pushed out of military planes over open water.

One of the most notorious cases involved Silvia Quintela, a leftist doctor who attended to the sick in shanty towns around Buenos Aires. On Jan. 17, 1977, Quintela was abducted off a Buenos Aires street by military authorities because of her political leanings. At the time, Quintela and her agronomist husband Abel Madariaga were expecting their first child.

According to witnesses who later testified before a government truth commission, Quintela was held at a military base called Campo de Mayo, where she gave birth to a baby boy. As in similar cases, the infant then was separated from the mother.

What happened to the boy is still not clear, but Quintela reportedly was transferred to a nearby airfield. There, victims were stripped naked, shackled in groups and dragged aboard military planes. The planes then flew out over the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean, where soldiers pushed the victims out of the planes and into the water to drown.

After democracy was restored in 1983, Madariaga, who had fled into exile in Sweden, returned to Argentina and searched for his wife. He learned about her death and the birth of his son.

Madariaga came to suspect that a military doctor, Norberto Atilio Bianco, had kidnapped the boy. Bianco had overseen Caesarean sections performed on captured women, according to witnesses. He then allegedly drove the new mothers to the airport for their death flights.

In 1987, Madariaga demanded DNA testing of Bianco’s two children, a boy named Pablo and a girl named Carolina, both of whom were suspected children of disappeared women. Madariaga thought Pablo might be his son.

 But Bianco and his wife, Susana Wehrli, fled Argentina to Paraguay, where they resettled with the two children. Argentine judge Roberto Marquevich sought the Biancos’ extradition, but Paraguay balked for 10 years.

Finally, faced with demands from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Paraguay relented. Bianco and Wehrli were returned to face kidnapping charges. But the two children — now young adults with small children of their own — refused to return to Argentina or submit to DNA testing.

Though realizing they were adopted, Pablo and Carolina did not want to know about the fate of their real mothers and did not want to jeopardize the middle-class lives they had enjoyed in the Bianco household. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Argentina's Dapper State Terrorist" or "Baby-Snatching: Argentina's Dirty War Secret."]

Another Argentine judge, Alfredo Bagnasco, began investigating whether the baby-snatching was part of an organized operation and thus a premeditated crime of state. According to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Argentine military viewed the kidnappings as part of a larger counterinsurgency strategy.

“The anguish generated in the rest of the surviving family because of the absence of the disappeared would develop, after a few years, into a new generation of subversive or potentially subversive elements, thereby not permitting an effective end to the Dirty War,” the commission said in describing the army’s reasoning for kidnapping the infants of murdered women. The kidnapping strategy conformed with the “science” of the Argentine counterinsurgency operations.

According to government investigations, the military’s intelligence officers also advanced Nazi-like methods of torture by testing the limits of how much pain a human being could endure before dying. The torture methods included experiments with electric shocks, drowning, asphyxiation and sexual perversions, such as forcing mice into a woman’s vagina. Some of the implicated military officers had trained at the U.S.-run School of the Americas.

The Argentine tactics were emulated throughout Latin America. According to a Guatemalan truth commission, the right-wing military there also adopted the practice of taking suspected subversives on death flights, although over the Pacific Ocean.

For their roles in the baby kidnappings, Videla, now 86 and already in prison for other crimes against humanity, was sentenced to 50 years; Bignone, 84 and also in prison, received 15 years.

Yet, as Americans continue to idolize Ronald Reagan — with scores of buildings named after him and his statue on display at Washington’s Reagan National Airport — a relevant question might be what did the 40th U.S. President know about these barbaric acts and when did he know it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Honduran Coup: The US Connection August 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
Published on Thursday, August 6, 2009 by Foreign Policy in Focus by Conn Hallinan
While the Obama administration was careful to distance itself from the recent coup in Honduras — condemning the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica, revoking Honduran officials’ visas, and shutting off aid — that doesn’t mean influential Americans aren’t involved, and that both sides of the aisle don’t have some explaining to do.The story most U.S. readers are getting about the coup is that Zelaya — an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — was deposed because he tried to change the constitution to keep himself in power.

That story is a massive distortion of the facts. All Zelaya was trying to do is to put a non-binding referendum on the ballot calling for a constitutional convention, a move that trade unions, indigenous groups, and social activist organizations had long been lobbying for. The current constitution was written by the Honduran military in 1982, and the one-term limit allows the brass-hats to dominate the politics of the country. Since the convention would have been held in November, the same month as the upcoming presidential elections, there was no way Zelaya could have remained in office in any case. The most he could have done was to run four years from now.

And while Zelaya is indeed friendly with Chavez, he is at best a liberal reformer whose major accomplishment was raising the minimum wage. “What Zelaya has done has been little reforms,” Rafael Alegria, a leader of Via Campesina, told the Mexican daily La Jornada. “He isn’t a socialist or a revolutionary, but these reforms, which didn’t harm the oligarchy at all, have been enough for them to attack him furiously.”

One of those “little reforms” was aimed at ensuring public control of the Honduran telecommunications industry, which may well have been the trip-wire that triggered the coup.

The first hint that something was afoot was a suit brought by Venezuelan lawyer Robert Carmona-Borjas claiming that Zelaya was part of a bribery scheme involving the state-run telecommunication company Hondutel.

Carmona-Borjas has a rap-sheet that dates back to the April 2002 coup against Chavez. He drew up the notorious “Carmona decrees,” a series of draconian laws aimed at suspending the Venezuelan constitution and suppressing any resistance to the coup. As Chavez supporters poured into the streets and the plot unraveled, Carmona-Borjas fled to Washington, DC. He took a post at George Washington University and brought Iran-Contra plotters Otto Reich and Elliott Abrams to teach his class on “Political Management in Latin America.” He also became vice-president of the right-wing Arcadia Foundation, which lobbies for free-market policies. Weeks before the June 28 Honduran coup, Carmona-Borjas barnstormed the country accusing Zelaya of collaborating with narco-traffickers.

Carmona-Borjas’ colleague, Reich, a Cuban American with ties to right-wing factions all over Latin America and former assistant secretary of State for hemispheric affairs under George W. Bush, has been accused by the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization of “undeniable involvement” in the coup.

This is hardly surprising. Reich was nailed by a 1987 congressional investigation for using public funds to engage in propaganda during the Reagan administration’s war on Nicaragua. He is also a fierce advocate for Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, both implicated in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1973 that killed all 73 on board.

Reich is also a ferocious critic of Zelaya. In a recent piece in the Weekly Standard, he urged the Obama administration not to support “strongman” Zelaya because it “would put the United States clearly in the same camp as Cuba’s Castro brothers, Venezuela’s Chavez, and other regional delinquents.”

One of the charges that Reich levels at Zelaya is that the Honduran president is supposedly involved with bribes paid out by the state-run telecommunications company Hondutel. Zelaya is threatening to file a defamation suit over the accusation.

Reich’s charges against Hondutel are hardly happenstance, as he is a former AT&T lobbyist and served as Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) Latin American advisor during the senator’s 2008 presidential campaign. McCain has deep ties with telecom giants AT&T, MCI, and Qualcomm and, according to Nikolas Kozloff, author of Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge of the United States, “has acted to protect and look out for the political interests of the telecoms on Capitol Hill.”

AT&T, McCain’s second largest donor, also generously funds the International Republican Institute (IRI), which has warred with Latin American regimes that have resisted telecommunications privatization. According to Kozloff, “President Zelaya was a known to be a fierce critic of telecommunications privatization.”

When Venezuelan coup leaders went to Washington a month before their failed effort to oust Chavez, IRI footed the bill. Reich, as then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s special envoy to the Western Hemisphere, met with some of those leaders.

Republicans in Congress have accused the Obama administration of being “soft” on Zelaya. Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) protested the White House’s support of the Honduran president holding up votes for administration nominees for the ambassador to Brazil and an assistant secretary of state. Meanwhile, Zelaya’s return was unanimously supported by the UN General Assembly, the European Union, and the Organization of American States.

But meddling in Honduras is a bipartisan undertaking.

“If you want to understand who is the real power behind the [Honduran] coup, you need to find out who is paying Lanny Davis,” says Robert White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and current president of the Center for International Policy. Davis, best known as the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, has been lobbying members of Congress and testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in support of the coup.

According to Roberto Lovato, an associate editor at New American Media, Davis represents the Honduran chapter of CEAL, the Business Council of Latin America, which strongly backed the coup. Davis told Lovato, “I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.”

But White says the coup had more to do with profits than law. “Coups happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests,” says White. “The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.” According to the World Bank, 59% of Hondurans live below the poverty line.

The United States is also involved in the coup through a network of agencies that funnel money and training to anti-government groups. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contribute to right-wing organizations that supported the coup, including the Peace and Democracy Movement and the Civil Democratic Union. Many of the officers that bundled Zelaya off to San Jose were trained at the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, the former “School for the Americas” that has seen torturers and coup leaders from all over Latin America pass through its doors.

The Obama administration condemned the coup, but when Zelaya journeyed to the Honduran-Nicaragua border, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced him for being “provocative.” It was a strange statement, since the State Department said nothing about a report by the Committee of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras charging 1,100 human rights violations by the coup regime, including detentions, assaults, and murder.

Human rights violations by the coup government have been condemned by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the International Observer Mission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protest Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

Davis claims that the coup was a “legal” maneuver to preserve democracy. But that’s a hard argument to make, given some of its architects. One is Fernando Joya, a former member of Battalion 316, a paramilitary death squad. Joya fled the country after being charged with kidnapping and torturing several students in the 1980s, but he has now resurfaced as a “special security advisor” to the coup makers. He recently gave a TV interview that favorably compared the 1973 Chilean coup to the June 28 Honduran coup.

According to Greg Grandin, a history professor at New York University, the coup makers also included the extremely right-wing Catholic organization, Opus Dei, whose roots go back to the fascist regime of Spanish caudillo Francisco Franco.

In the old days, when the United States routinely overthrew governments that displeased it, the Marines would have gone in, as they did in Guatemala and Nicaragua, or the CIA would have engineered a coup by the local elites. No one has accused U.S. intelligence of being involved in the Honduran coup, and American troops in the country are keeping a low profile. But the fingerprints of U.S. institutions like the NED, USAID, and School for the Americas — plus bipartisan lobbyists, powerful corporations, and dedicated Cold War warriors — are all over the June takeover.

Copyright © 2009, Institute for Policy Studies

Conn Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus.

The 43 Who Helped Make Bush The Worst Ever January 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

The Progress Report

January 16, 2009

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, Pat Garofalo, Igor Volsky, Matt Duss, Brad Johnson, and Matt Yglesias

Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. The Progress Report heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.

1. Dick Cheney — The worst Dick since Nixon. The man who shot his friend while in office. The “most powerful and controversial vice president.” Until he got the job, people used to actually think it was a bad thing that the vice presidency has historically been a do-nothing position. Asked by PBS’s Jim Lehrer about why people hate him, Cheney rejected the premise, saying, “I don’t buy that.” His top placement in our survey says otherwise.

2. Karl Rove — There wasn’t a scandal in the Bush administration that Rove didn’t have his fingerprints all over — see Plame, Iraq war deception, Gov. Don Siegelman, U.S. Attorney firings, missing e-mails, and more. As senior political adviser and later as deputy chief of staff, “The Architect” was responsible for politicizing nearly every agency of the federal government.

3. Alberto Gonzales — Fundamentally dishonest and woefully incompetent, Gonzales was involved in a series of scandals, first as White House counsel and then as Attorney General. Some of the most notable: pressuring a “feeble” and “barely articulate” Attorney General Ashcroft at his hospital bedside to sign off on Bush’s illegal wiretapping program; approving waterboarding and other torture techniques to be used against detainees; and leading the firing of U.S. Attorneys deemed not sufficiently loyal to Bush.

4. Donald Rumsfeld — After winning praise for leading the U.S. effort in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, the former Defense Secretary strongly advocated for the invasion of Iraq and then grossly misjudged and mishandled its aftermath. Rumsfeld is also responsible for authorizing the use of torture against terror detainees in U.S. custody; according to a bipartisan Senate report, Rumsfeld “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

5. Michael Brown — This former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association was appointed by Bush to head FEMA in 2003. After Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Brownie promptly did a “heck of a jobbungling the government’s relief efforts, and was sent back to Washington a few days later. He was forced to resign shortly thereafter.

6. Paul Wolfowitz — As Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005, Wolfowitz was one of the primary architects of the Iraq war, arguing for the invasion as early as Sept. 15, 2001. Testifying before Congress in February 2003, Wolfowitz said that it was “hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.” Wolfowitz eventually admitted that “for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction,” as a justification for war, “because it was the one reason everyone [in the administration] could agree on.”

7. David Addington — “Cheney’s Cheney” was the “most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” As the leader of Bush’s legal team and Cheney’s chief of staff, Addington was the biggest proponent of some of Bush’s most notorious legal abuses, such as torture and warrantless surveillance, and is a loyal follower of the so-called unitary executive theory.

8. Stephen Johnson
— The “Alberto Gonzales of the environment,” EPA Administrator Johnson subverted the agency’s mission at the behest of the White House and corporate interests, suppressing staff recommendations on pesticides, mercury, lead paint, smog, and global warming.

9. Douglas Feith — Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001-2005, Feith headed up the notorious Office of Special Plans, an in-house Pentagon intelligence shop devised by Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to produce intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. A subsequent investigation by the Pentagon’s Inspector General found the OSP’s work produced “conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.”

10. John Bolton — As Undersecretary of State, Bolton offered a strong voice in favor of invading Iraq and pushed for the U.S. to disengage from the International Criminal Court and key international arms control agreements. A recess appointment landed Bolton the job of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, despite his stringent animosity toward the world body. Today, he spends his time calling for war with Iran.

11. John Yoo — As a lawyer for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo authored a series of legal memos giving military interrogators authority to use torture and coercive techniques when interviewing terrorist suspects. Yoo said that only those techniques that inflict pain equivalent to “death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions” constitute torture. Last year, he refused to answer whether or not the president could order a detainee to be buried alive.

12. Ari Fleischer — Bush’s first press secretary helped redefine the role as that of liar-in-chief rather than informer of the public, earning a reputation as “the world’s most dishonest flack.” Whereas his successors sometimes looked uncomfortable lying, Fleischer was having fun, spinning a cowed and gullible press corps through two massive tax cuts and the initiation of a war undertaken on false pretenses.

13. John Ashcroft — In 2003, as Bush’s first Attorney General, Ashcroft approved waterboarding and other torture techniques on detainees. Ashcroft’s nomination was controversial, as he had a history of opposing school desegregation. The chief architect of the invasive Patriot Act, Ashcroft maintains to this day that Bush is “among the most respectful of all leaders ever” of civil liberties.

14. Henry Paulson — Even as the financial system was crashing down around him, Treasury Secretary Paulson insisted for months that the banking system was “safe and sound.” Once he decided that the economy needed saving, Paulson requested nearly unfettered authority to send billions of taxpayer dollars to banks with no oversight.

15. L. Paul Bremer — This Presidential Medal of Freedom winner took over the Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2003. Under his mismanagement, the insurgency exploded in Iraq. Bremer claimed he had all the troops he needed to secure the country, overestimated the strength of the new U.S.-trained Iraqi army, disbanded the Iraqi army leaving thousands of Iraqi soldiers with no income and no occupation, and enacted a de-Baathification law that barred many experienced Iraqis from government positions.

16. Bradley Schlozman — As a recent DOJ Inspector General report demonstrates, Schlozman was a central figure in Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department. Violating civil service laws, Schlozman used political and ideological considerations to ensure that only “right-thinking Americans” received jobs. He eventually lied to Congress about his efforts.

17. J. Steven Griles — A former energy lobbyist and no. 2 official in the Interior Department, Griles went to jail for lying to Congress about illegal favors he did for corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Griles also abused his position “to unlock nearly every legal barrier to exploitation” of our nation’s oil and mineral reserves. Before his conviction, Griles left the White House to become a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips.

18. Condoleezza Rice — As Bush’s national security adviser, Rice was another strong advocate for invading Iraq, once famously warning that the U.S. should attack Iraq and not wait for solid proof of its WMD because “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”  Rice also ignored an urgent warning from the CIA before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that a strike inside the U.S. was imminent.

19. Scooter Libby — Cheney’s former chief of staff was a key player in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame as part of the Bush administration’s quest to punish Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for publishing an op-ed debunking one of the White House’s main justifications for invading Iraq. Libby was ultimately convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in a federal investigation into Plame’s outing but later had his 30-month prison sentence commuted by Bush.

20. Monica Goodling
— Goodling was the most notorious graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University during her tenure in the Justice Department. As the White House liaison at the DOJ, she based the department’s hiring of candidates on their sexual preference, GOP loyalty, and adherence to conservative ideology.

21. Alphonso Jackson
— As Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Jackson let the U.S. housing market crumble while he was busy giving lucrative contracts to his golfing buddies, retaliating against Bush critics, and erecting giant photo homages to himself.

22. Michael Hayden — As director of the National Security Agency, Hayden ran Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and misled Congress about the program’s legality. After moving to the CIA, he dismissed the destruction of evidence implicating the CIA in torture as “in line with the law.”

23. Lurita Doan —  The former head of the General Services Administration (GSA)who doled out a no-bid contract to a friend, Doan famously hosted a meeting of White House political operatives where she asked how GSA employees could “help ‘our candidates’ in the next election.” After the Office of Special Counsel called for her firing, she was forced to resign at the request of the White House.

24. Gale Norton — A former industry lobbyist and Bush’s first Secretary of the Interior, Norton pushed a radical ideological agenda “through regulatory rollbacks, suppression of science, preferential treatment, and collusion with industry” — including doctoring scientific findings on the impacts of oil drilling on caribou. After resigning under the cloud of ties to Jack Abramoff, she joined  Shell Oil.

25. Lester Crawford — After promising to act on the morning-after contraceptive pill during his confirmation hearings, the former FDA Commissioner “indefinitely postponed nonprescription sales of emergency contraception over the objections of staff scientists who had declared the pill safe.” Crawford resigned after just two months on the job and later pleaded guilty “to charges that he hid his ownership of stock in food and drug companies that his agency regulated.”

26. Harriet Miers — Well-known for being Bush’s failed Supreme Court nominee, Miers also thought it was “important” to her as White House Counsel that Rove protege Tim Griffin was installed as a U.S. Attorney, making her a central figure in the U.S. Attorney scandal. She is said to have called Bush “the most brilliant man she had ever met.”

27. Hans Von Spakovsky — Originally a political appointee in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, Spakovsky “injected partisan political factors into decision-making” and used every opportunity “to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.” In 2008, Spakovsky withdrew his name from consideration for the FEC, following months of opposition from lawmakers and civil rights groups.

28. Tommy Franks — As head of U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003, Franks oversaw Osama bin Laden’s great escape from Afghanistan, gave orders for the stabilization of Iraq via PowerPoint, assumed that the U.S. would draw down to 25,000 troops by the end of 2004, and had American soldiers stand idly by as chaos and lawlessness took hold after the invasion.

29. Thomas Scully — As chief administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Scully was the White House’s head negotiator on the Medicare prescription drug bill. Scully threatened to fire chief actuary Richard Foster if he revealed that Bush’s Medicare Part D legislation “would cost 25% to 50% more than the Bush administration’s public estimates.”

30. Julie MacDonald — A top Interior Department appointee, MacDonald “interjected herself personally and profoundly” and “tainted nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species” over a five-year period, intimidating the staff with “abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive” tactics. MacDonald also leaked government documents to a young acquaintance whom she met while playing “internet role-playing games.”

31. William Haynes — As the former general counsel at the Defense Department, he was part of a five-person team of high-level administration lawyers, dubbed the “War Council,” that tossed the Geneva Conventions aside and hatched out the legal framework for torture in secret meetings.

32. David Safavian — Safavian was (twice) tried and convicted for his role in the jack Abramoff scandal. Safavian was found guilty of “lying and obstructing justice” in an attempt to cover-up “his many efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA.”

33. James Connaughton — As chairman of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, Connaughton wrote EPA press releases downplaying the danger of the air quality in lower Manhattan following 9/11. “A former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters,” Connaughton insisted “there’s a lot of disagreement” about humans’ impact on global warming, and he touted a bogus study purporting to show that the 20th century was not unusually warm.

34. William Luti — A former Navy officer and Cheney aide, Luti was dispatched to the Pentagon in 2001 to work underneath Feith to find “evidence” to support his boss’s belief in conspiracy theories linking Saddam to al Qaeda. Luti was an integral component of Cheney’s campaign to pressure intelligence professionals to conform their judgments to administration policy rather than reality.

35. Susan Orr — As Assistant Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs, this former Family Research Council official oversaw funding for the only federal program that provided contraceptive services to low-income Americans. Orr cheered Bush’s anti-contraception record, saying, “Fertility is not a disease. It’s not a medical necessity that you have [contraception].”

36. Christopher Cox — Under Chairman Cox, the Securities and Exchange Commission censored internal reports showing that it ignored critical signs pointing to Wall Street’s meltdown. Cox’s SEC also failed to detect Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, despite a decade of warnings.

37. Elliott Abrams — An Iran-Contra convict pardoned by Bush 41, Abrams was named by Bush 43 as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations. As a founding Project for a New American Century signatory and a staunchly pro-Israel neoconservative, Abrams supported expanding Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon into Syria and advocated a Fatah coup after Hamas won the February 2006 Palestinian elections.

38. Philip Cooney — A former oil lobbyist who served as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Cooney doctored climate reports to “soften” words and phrases linking greenhouse gas emissions to global warming. After his political interference was revealed, Cooney left the White House to become a lobbyist for Exxon.

39. Colin Powell — Though Bush called him “an American hero” when he appointed him to be the first African-American Secretary of State, Powell placed an ugly “blot” on his record when he pushed the Bush administration’s faulty case for the Iraq war in a speech to the U.N. on Feb.5, 2003, using inaccurate information. Liberal hawks and the media rallied around Powell’s false case, calling it the “winning hand” for war.

40. Elaine Chao — The Labor Secretary made it through all eight years of the Bush administration, driving morale at the Labor Department so low that staffers threw a “good-riddance party” to cheer her departure. She leaves behind a “deeply troubled department” that “spent eight years attacking workers’ rights, strong workplace health and safety rules, and unions while they carried the water for Big Business.”

41. Julie Myers — After being hired as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement based on little more than her personal connections, Myers made herself famous by awarding “Most Original Costume” to an employee who dressed up in blackface and a prison costume for Halloween. She was also heavily criticized for conducting politically-motivated immigration raids.

42. Wade Horn — As Assistant Secretary for Community Initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services, Horn funneled millions of tax-payer dollars into right-wing abstinence-only programs. Shortly before he resigned, it was revealed that he had given nearly $1 million “to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), where he was the president for at least three years until joining the Bush administration in 2001.”

43. George Deutsch — As a young, inexperienced press officer for NASA, Deutsch “told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word ‘theory’ at every mention of the Big Bang.” He resigned in 2006 after it was discovered he had lied on his resume, falsely claiming that he had a journalism degree from Texas A&M.

Dishonorable Mentions: Bush appointees who didn’t quite make the list included a child pornography aficionado, a patron of hookers, a shoplifter, a mail fraudster, an operator of an illegal horse gambling ring, and a CIA official who took bribes in the form of prostitutes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers