Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Batman Super-Villain Method of Damage Control

From an article called Bush's War on History:
Toward the end of the Clinton-Gore administration, there had been a surge in the declassification of records that exposed the dark underbelly of the U.S. “victory” in the Cold War, records showing American knowledge and complicity in murder, torture and other crimes in places such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina... A continuation of these historical disclosures under Gore might have given the American people a more balanced awareness of what had been done in their name in the four-decade-long struggle with the Soviet Union... Under a newly applicable presidential records law, those documents would have included papers from Ronald Reagan’s presidency, documents that could have implicated Bush’s father, Vice President George H.W. Bush, in misjudgments and wrongdoing... One of Bush’s first acts after being inaugurated President on Jan. 20, 2001, was to stop the scheduled release of documents from the Reagan-Bush administration. Supposedly, the delay was to permit a fuller review of the papers, but that review was strung out through Bush’s first several months in office... On Nov. 1, 2001, Bush issued Executive Order 13233, which effectively negated the 1978 Presidential Records Act by allowing presidents, vice presidents and their heirs the power to prevent many document releases... Eight years earlier, the senior George Bush had tried to undercut the Presidential Records Act before leaving office... In 1995, a federal judge struck down the Bush-Wilson agreement, in effect, resuming the countdown toward the first implementation of the Presidential Records Act in 2001... Facing that deadline while taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush had his White House counsel Alberto Gonzales draft up paperwork that first suspended and then gutted the law. Bush’s Nov. 1, 2001, executive order granted former national executives – and their families – the right to control the documents indefinitely... Bush’s order amounted to a grant of hereditary power over the nation’s history. Because of his father’s 12 years as Vice President and President and his own possible eight years as President, Bush’s order could mean that control over 20 years of American history might someday be invested in the hands of the Bush Twins, Jenna and Barbara... George W. Bush has even moved aggressively to reclassify documents that had previously been released. A study by the privately funded National Security Archive at George Washington University found that more than 55,000 pages of records have been taken off the shelves of publicly available documents.
So here's the thing: If you're old enough to remember or have seen the re-runs, you know the methods "super-villains" devised to execute Batman & Robin? Elaborate, unnecessarily complicated, slow... fun for campy TV, but not what one would emulate as a problem-solving method in the real world, right? So, I wonder, why the hell are there any documents to worry about, anyway? Why not just shred or hide them from the beginning, so the problem would never arise?

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