Scrubbed: Lee Hamilton And The Unbearable Baggage Of Recent History

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guest contributor Jerry Meldon has an interesting new piece at Bob Parry’s site, Consortium News dot com. It’s called “Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Hyde“, and it’s interesting in quite a number of ways.

The “Dr. Hamilton” of the title is Lee Hamilton [photo], whose name is well-known to students of 9/11 — not all of whom may be familiar with much of his background. Dr. Hamilton’s official biography is indeed a well-connected one; here’s a sample:

Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.

Hamilton served as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, a forward looking, bi-partisan assessment of the situation in Iraq, created at the urging of Congress. He served as Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission and co-chaired the 9/11 Public Discourse Project established to monitor implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. He is currently a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the CIA Director’s Economic Intelligence Advisory Panel, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.

The Wikipedia page on Dr. Hamilton contains a good deal of overlap but some interesting additional information:

Hamilton was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat as part of the national Democratic landslide of 1964. He chaired many committees during his tenure in office, including the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Joint Committee on Printing, and others. As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be “good for the country” to put the public through another impeachment trial. He was one of the top choices to be running mate of Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bill Clinton. It was specualated that Hamilton’s chances were blocked by feminist organziations like National Organization for Women who didn’t find Hamilton sufficantly pro-choice on abortion. He remained in Congress until 1999; at the time he was one of two surviving members of the large Democratic freshman class of 1965 (the other being John Conyers).

On March 15, 2006, Congress announced the formation of the Iraq Study Group, organized by the United States Institute of Peace, of which Hamilton is the Democratic co-chair, along with the former Secretary of State (under President George H.W. Bush) James A. Baker III. Hamilton, like Baker, is considered a master negotiator.

Since leaving Congress, Mr. Hamilton has served as a member of the Hart-Rudman Commission, and was co-chair of the Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos. He sits on many advisory boards, including those to the CIA, the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the United States Army. Hamilton is an Advisory Board member and Co-Chair for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. He is currently the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and was appointed to serve as the vice chair of the 9/11 Commission.

Jerry Meldon’s piece fills in more of the background on Dr. Hamilton’s decision, “as chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran”, “not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush”.

Dr. Hamilton’s “justification” for his decision — that he did not think it would be “good for the country” to put the public through another impeachment trial — may or may not represent faulty judgment about what’s “good for the country”, but it undeniably puts one man’s opinion — his — above the rule of law.

It’s a neocon fascist act, thoroughly consistent with the acts of the neocon fascists with whom he cooperates today — as “an Advisory Board member and Co-Chair for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy”.

This means: As an alleged Democrat who supports neocon fascist policies, Lee Hamilton tries to make neocon fascist policies seem reasonable, and this fabricated support for the Republican agenda among the “Democrats” is then used to paint any opposition as “hyperpartisan” — shrill, radical, and not serious.

In other words, the “Partnership for a Secure America” is one of many front groups set up to provide a veneer of legitimacy for the post-9/11 transformation of America, and Dr. Lee Hamilton, the “bipartisan Democrat”, has been selected to give the “not-for-profit” group its Democratic “credibility”.

As Jerry Meldon points out, Dr. Hamilton has a long history of enabling criminal abuse of the country by radical Republicans. Extensive excerpts from Meldon:

When former Rep. Lee Hamilton gives the keynote address – entitled “Iraq: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond” – at a Tufts University symposium on March 27, he may be thankful if he doesn’t have to discuss “yesterday.”

He probably would prefer not to revisit fateful decisions he made while chairing investigations into Republican dirty work, especially those that let George H.W. Bush off the hook and cleared George W. Bush’s path to the White House.

As veteran journalist Robert Parry has persuasively argued at Consortiumnews.com, the Bush family name squeaked through the 80’s and early 90’s essentially mud-free, only because:

— On Christmas Eve 1992, lame-duck President George H.W. Bush pardoned six of his earlier co-conspirators in the Iran-Contra affair (the Reagan-Bush White House’s diversion of profits from illegal arms sales to Iran to bankroll Nicaragua’s contra terrorists in defiance of a congressional ban). Until he was pardoned that day, former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger might have bought clemency by testifying against co-conspirator Bush.

— After Bush left office on Jan. 20, 1993, President Bill Clinton (along with other senior Democrats, including Hamilton) cut short a congressional inquiry into Bush’s secret billion-dollar loans to Saddam Hussein and did nothing to help Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh penetrate the Iran-Contra cover-up.

— Hamilton also soft-pedaled two key congressional inquiries. The first investigated the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and the second examined allegations that the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign team had struck a treasonous deal with the hostage-holding Iranian government while Jimmy Carter was still president.

Conventional wisdom has attributed the target-friendliness of those latter investigations to Mr. Hamilton’s celebrated spirit of bipartisanship.

After all, what else could have persuaded Hamilton to narrow the scope of the Iran-Contra investigation in order to placate Dick Cheney and the rest of the committee’s Republicans, if not his desire to appear bipartisan?

And how else to explain Hamilton’s ill-advised decision to join with the panel’s Republicans (in defiance of all but one other Democrat) and immunize the testimony of a man on whom it had the goods, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North (whose operations in the Old Executive Office Building had been exposed by reporter Parry in 1985-86)?

How much more criminal activity can we celebrate in the “spirit of bipartisanship”?

One may note here that much of Jerry Meldon’s reporting depends on the excellent work done by Robert Parry in the 1980s and 1990s.

Parry has been very critical of Bill Clinton for not pursuing allegations of treason against his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, arguing that George W. Bush could never have been presented as a “serious” presidential candidate if the full extent of his father’s criminal past had been well-known before the 2000 “election”.

Jerry Meldon again:

North proceeded to cover up for then-Vice President Bush, and North was spared a felony record because his later criminal conviction was reversed because of his immunized testimony, which Hamilton had helped arrange.

Hamilton’s Iran-Contra performance was troubling. But he went several steps further when he chaired the October Surprise Task Force and handed the Reagan-Bush administration a deck full of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

In the lead-up to the 1980 election, Republicans feared that Jimmy Carter would pull off an “October Surprise” and talk the Iranians into releasing 52 American hostages. Carter’s failure to do so led to Reagan’s landslide victory.

However, over the next several years, a parade of individuals alleged that Carter failed only because the Republicans had secretly agreed to arm Iran in exchange for a delay in the hostages’ release.

Heated Republican denials notwithstanding, the fact remained that the Iranians chose to end the hostages’ 444-day ordeal within hours of Reagan’s inauguration. To put the nasty rumors to rest more than a decade later, the House Foreign Affairs Committee formed a task force under the leadership of Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, and … Lee Hamilton.

How much do you know about this task force? How much do you remember?

Jerry Meldon continues:

The task force was charged with examining allegations that in the summer and fall of 1980 Republican heavyweights, notably the vice presidential candidate, former CIA director George H.W. Bush, and the campaign director, future CIA director William J. Casey, had secretly flown to Europe to strike the fateful deal.

The key issue was the veracity of Bush’s and Casey’s alibis.

In the heat of his 1992 re-election campaign, an angry President Bush accused the task force of waging a “witch hunt.” Obligingly, Hamilton and Hyde disclosed that partially redacted Secret Service records backed Bush’s alibi, thus clearing him of suspicion.

However, Spencer Oliver, chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, objected, asking why key sections of those records were blacked out; why one crucial entry asserted a trip to a Maryland country club that Bush never took; and why the identity of a person who supposedly met with Bush was withheld from the task force.

Oliver charged that the Bush administration was stonewalling:

“They have sought to block, limit, restrict and discredit the investigation in every possible way … President Bush’s recent outbursts [about] his whereabouts in mid-October of 1980 are disingenuous at best since the administration has refused to make available the documents and the witnesses that could finally and conclusively clear Mr. Bush.”

Journalist Parry adds: “The Bush administration flatly refused to give any more information to the House task force unless it agreed never to interview [Mr. Bush’s] alibi witness and never to release [that person’s] name. Amazingly, the task force accepted the administration’s terms.”

Hamilton’s treatment of Mr. Bush was outrageously deferential…

Do you hear any echoes from the past?

Does Barack Obama hear those echoes? His plea for unity in the face of diversity sounds very much like the “good for the country” story under which the crimes of Bush 41 were buried.

And some of us fear that Obama — if elected — would follow in the steps of Bill Clinton and Lee Hamilton and bury the crimes of the preceding administration. Is it unreasonable for us to fear such an outcome?

There’s more from Jerry Meldon and you should read it all.

If you do, you’ll learn nothing of what Lee Hamilton has done in the past 15 years.

You’ll also note a subtle, ironic flavor to Meldon’s introduction …

When former Rep. Lee Hamilton gives the keynote address – entitled “Iraq: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond” – at a Tufts University symposium on March 27, he may be thankful if he doesn’t have to discuss “yesterday.”

… and his conclusion …

on March 27 – as Mr. Hamilton participates in the Fares Center’s symposium, “The United States and the Middle East: What Comes Next After Iraq?” – the Tufts community will have the opportunity to ask Mr. Hamilton exactly why he has repeatedly kept Americans in the dark about critical episodes of their nation’s history in dealing with the Middle East.

Such a treatment — implying that Dr. Hamilton may not want to talk about “yesterday” and hinting about his role in keeping “Americans in the dark about critical episodes of their nation’s history in dealing with the Middle East” — may well be valid, but when such a treatment is applied to an article that doesn’t mention anything that’s happened since 1993, it’s tough not to think of a word that rhymes with “aristocracy” and starts with the letter “H”.

Why would an “independent investigative journalist” whose website does so much good work exposing America’s hidden history be so reluctant to discuss America’s recent hidden history?

Is there something controversial about the claim the Lee Hamilton was the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission?

Is there something controversial about the claim that the 9/11 Commission’s report is unbelievable?

If so, we’ve got a problem, because one of the people making that claim is Lee Hamilton himself.

Why couldn’t Jerry Meldon mention any of this? Why couldn’t Robert Parry — who wrote both an introduction to Meldon’s article and a coda — have mentioned any of this?

Did I miss a memo someplace? Are we not allowed to talk about anything that’s happened in the last 15 years?

Or is this what the Consortium News masthead means where it says “Independent Investigative Journalism Since 1995”??

I think I’d better stay away from “independent investigative journalism”, and just keep blogging!

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