Daily Briefing

Full-Court Press on Iraq
Bush’s Shrinking Profile
Hope for Justice in Bhopal?
Carl Levin Cleans Up

Full Court Press on Iraq

Clearly intent on building support for a preemptive strike against Iraq, and possibly smarting from suggestions that it lacks direction, the Bush administration has started what Todd Purdum of The New York Times calls “a carefully coordianted campaign to move Congress and the United Nations in their direction.” Leading that charge is Vice President Dick Cheney, who insists Baghdad is “actively and aggressively” working to build a nuclear bomb, the Los Angeles Times and others report. Cheney is arguing that the mere possibility that Iraq could build weapons of mass destruction justify a preemptive, unilateral strike. Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle isn’t convinced, suggesting that the administration’s single-minded focus on military action is a reflection of Cheney, who he calls “the least charismatic least interesting most intellectually acrimonious and most desperately hawkish, violence-hungry, soulfully inscrutable vice president in decades.” The editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer, are far less dismissive of the White House, conceding that “the neoconservatives who hold sway in the Bush administration may be right that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons program is accelerating toward the red zone.” But the Inquirer argues the administration still hasn’t made a “remotely persuasive case” that a preemptive strike is the answer. Meanwhile, scientists in the US and Europe seem unable to agree on just how to gauge the threat cited by Cheney and other administration insiders. The International Institute for Strategic Studies report cited by The Guardian suggests that Iraq could build a bomb within months, but only if Baghdad manages to steal or buy nuclear material.

Bush’s Ever-Shrinking Profile

Despite certain polls suggesting that President Bush’s popularity remains strong, there are increasing signs that his administration has lost credibility in practically every political arena. Paul Krugman opines in The New York Times that the White House has all but failed to convince anyone of the soundness of its policies, both domestic and foreign. Instead, Krugman writes, the administration is relying on an Orwellian “doublethink” in which each official pronouncement is then contradicted or weakened by the next. Further, Matthew Engel argues in The Guardian that the great outpouring of international sympathy which followed the Sept. 11 attacks has “dissipated [after] a spending spree of ideological indulgences and hubris.” On the domestic front, the editorial board of Newsday writes that the Bush administration lacks the credibility to assuage Americans’ fears over the economy. The administration, writes Newsday, lacks a clear vision on economic policy — focusing instead on simplistic tax cuts — and has no trusted spokesperson to restore confidence. Lastly, John Passacantando notes on AlterNet that the growing dissatisfaction with the Bush administration is spreading well beyond the progressive community. The growing anger toward Bush, writes Passacantando, comes “from firemen, cops, those coveted soccer moms, surfers, cabbies, anarchists and Republicans [and] is unlike anything we have seen in modern times.”

Hope for Justice in Bhopal?

Eighteen years ago, 40 tons of poisonous gas leaked from a Union Carbide Corporation pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, killing about 5,000 people in the shantytown located below the plant and crippling thousands more. As the Far Eastern Economic Review‘s Arun Subramaniam recounts, the company’s CEO at the time, Warren Anderson, was arrested when he arrived in Bhopal several days after the accident, charged with culpable homicide, and promptly freed to return to the US. Now, 18 years later, the Indian government says it will press for Anderson’s extradition. Anderson is considered a fugitive from justice under Indian law, and could face a 10-year jail sentence and a hefty fine if found guilty of the charges originally lodged against him. Of course, recent history suggests Anderson might still have relatively little to fear. As Peter Popham of The Independent notes, the legal penalties Union Carbide has paid related to the Bhopal disaster are “derisory compared to the billions the company would have had to shell out in an American settlement,” a fact Popham suggests is the result of a corrupt and ineffective Indian judicial system.

Carl Levin Cleans Up

Could it be that the Democratic Party finally has a justice-loving, corporate-fighting crusader in Washington? Laura Cohn of Business Week believes so, in the form of Senator Carl Levin. The Michigan lawmaker has recently dedicated himself to spearheading inquiries against Enron and other wayward corporations, demanding extensive review of each case and mercilessly pouncing on wrongdoers. Levin’s style is thorough and insistent, writes Cohn, and inspires fear in the hearts of the hapless objects of his investigations. On a less heroic note, however, Cohn allows that there are exceptions to the Senator’s bravery in the face of the corporate menace: Last spring, Levin caved into the auto industry, failing to demand higher fuel-economy standards from his home state’s industrial giants.


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