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Behind Bush's Vietnam Revisionism

Loving Graham Greene?

Frank James blogs for the Tribune Washington bureau about yesterday's most bizarre moment by far: "In his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City today, President Bush summoned up the Alden Pyle CIA agent character of Graham Greene's classic Vietnam novel 'The Quiet American' which is essentially a contemplation on the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

"I'm not sure he really wanted to go there or why his speechwriters would take him there."

From Bush's speech: "In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called 'The Quiet American.' It was set in Saigon and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: 'I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.'

"After America entered the Vietnam War, Graham Greene -- the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. Matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people."

As James writes: "Greene doesn't really help the White House's argument. Indeed, most people would read Greene's novel as a refutation of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And why draw attention to a fictional character who has been used to outline Bush's alleged flaws?"

The Maliki Conundrum

Deb Riechmann writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush, scrambling to show he still backs embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, offered him a fresh endorsement on Wednesday, calling him 'a good guy, good man with a difficult job.'

"'I support him,' Bush said a day after he acknowledged frustration with the Iraqi leader's inability to bridge political divisions in his country. 'It's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position. It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.'

"Bush's validation of al-Maliki, inserted at the last minute into his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, stole the spotlight from Bush's attempt to buttress support for the war by likening today's fight against extremism to past conflicts in Japan, Korea and Vietnam."

Robert H. Reid writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush is frustrated, his ambassador to Baghdad is disappointed. But there are no ready alternatives to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and his opponents lack the votes to replace him.

"What's more, the country remains so fractured along sectarian and ethnic lines that it's doubtful whether any other politician could do a better job under Iraq's current system."

Democracy and Death

In an astonishing interview published yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell says that having to explain the administration's warrantless surveillance program to Congress "means that some Americans are going to die."

And if that weren't enough, he then goes on to disclose more details about the program than have ever been made public before.

McConnell's interview with the Chris Roberts of the El Paso Times was on Aug. 14, but the transcript was published online yesterday.

Greg Miller writes in the Los Angeles Times: "His comments represent an exceedingly rare public description of one of the nation's most closely guarded and controversial espionage operations. Many of the details he described -- such as the deliberations of the special intelligence court and the scope of the surveillance operation -- are usually considered classified."

Katherine Shrader writes for the Associated Press: "McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector assisted with President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies are being sued for their cooperation. 'Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies,' McConnell said, arguing that they deserve immunity for their help."

He also "provided new details on court rulings handed down by the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves classified eavesdropping operations and whose proceedings are almost always entirely secret."

But I just can't get over his unsupported assertion that the current public debate about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will cost American lives because of all the information it revealed to terrorists.

Said McConnell: "The fact we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die, because . . . the more we talk about it, the more [the bad guys] will go with an alternative means and when they go to an alternative means, remember what I said, a significant portion of what we do, this is not just threats against the United States, this is war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Q. So you're saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?

"A. That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public. We used to do these things very differently, but for whatever reason, you know, it's a democratic process and sunshine's a good thing. We need to have the debate. . . . Now because of the claim, counterclaim, mistrust, suspicion, the only way you could make any progress was to have this debate in an open way."

Blogger Marcy Wheeler chimes in: "If transparency is going to kill Americans, Mike McConnell just killed a lot more Americans blabbing to the El Paso Times than a Congressional debate with marginal transparency ever will."

Secrecy Watch

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.

"The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House's own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA."

In Case You Were Wondering

George Rush and Joanna Molloy write in their New York Daily News gossip column: "Gay escort-turned-White House correspondent Jeff Gannon is shooting down internet claims that shocking allegations in his forthcoming book prompted Karl Rove's departure from the White House. The claims were posted on, which once carried Gannon's dispatches. But Gannon tells us someone else has bought the site name for 'publishing satire and in this case defamation.' Gannon insists his book, due in September, has 'no connection' with Rove's departure.

Cartoon Watch

Mike Luckovich on Bush's view of history.

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