Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerry, we hardly knew ye...

Hoo boy. President Gerald Ford, may he RIP, is telling tales from beyond-the-beyond. And, really...what better time to talk some trash? Woody takes off his bestseller-beret for a moment and adjusts his ratty ol' press-hat: "Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq," By Bob Woodward
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."
[...] Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
Well, cripes...thanks for telling us now, you dingbat. Jeez. What's this? There's more...
Woodward goes on to recount how Ford approached Kissinger in '75 about giving up his position as National Security Adviser (i.e. leaving Kissinger "only" Sec. State).
Kissinger was not happy. "Mr. President, the press will misunderstand this," Ford recalled Kissinger telling him. "They'll write that I'm being demoted by taking away half of my job." But Ford made the changes, elevating the deputy national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, to take Kissinger's White House post.
[...] Kissinger remained a challenge for Ford. He regularly threatened to resign, the former president recalled. "Over the weekend, any one of 50 weekends, the press would be all over him, giving him unshirted hell. Monday morning he would come in and say, 'I'm offering my resignation.' Just between Henry and me. And I would literally hold his hand. 'Now, Henry, you've got the nation's future in your hands and you can't leave us now.' Henry publicly was a gruff, hard-nosed, German-born diplomat, but he had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."
Ford added, "Any criticism in the press drove him crazy." Kissinger would come in and say: "I've got to resign. I can't stand this kind of unfair criticism." Such threats were routine, Ford said. "I often thought, maybe I should say: 'Okay, Henry. Goodbye,' " Ford said, laughing. "But I never got around to that."
At one point, Ford recalled Kissinger, his chief Vietnam policymaker, as "coy."
Kissinger "thin-skinned" and "coy"?! Who was he, Greta Garbo? 'Tis not easy being a war criminal, eh? Oh, the burns!
Better not tell that to the millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Chileans, & East Timorese who suffered so directly from Kissinger's "diplomacy."
Huh? East-Timorese?! Yes, so far I think that Amy Goodman's the only one to include that in their 'Ford is dead' round-up. Here's Amy speaking to Brad Simpson of the National Security Archives about Kissinger & Ford's complicity in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor:
AMY GOODMAN: Brad, you recently got documents declassified about President Ford and his role in 1975, in meeting with the long reigning dictator of Indonesia, Suharto. Can you explain what you learned?
BRAD SIMPSON: Yes. Gerald Ford actually met twice with Suharto, first in July of 1975 when Suharto came to the United States. And later in December of 1975, of course, on the eve of his invasion of East Timor. And we now know that for more than a year Indonesia had been planning its armed takeover of East Timor, and the United States had of course been aware of Indonesian military plans. In July of 1975, the National Security Council first informed Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford of Indonesia’s plans to take over East Timor by force. And Suharto of course raised this with Gerald Ford in July when he met with Gerald Ford at Camp David on a trip to the United States. And then in December of 1975 on a trip through Southeast Asia, Gerald Ford met again with Suharto on the eve of the invasion, more than two weeks after the National Security Council, CIA, other intelligence agencies had concluded that an Indonesian invasion was eminent [sic]. And that the only thing delaying the invasion was the fear that US disapproval might lead to a cut-off of weapons and military supplies to the regime.
AMY GOODMAN: How knowledgeable was President Ford at the time of the situation?
BRAD SIMPSON: Well, Ford was very much aware. He was receiving hourly briefings, as was Henry Kissinger, as his plane lifted off from Indonesia, as the invasion indeed commenced. And immediately afterwards Gerald Ford flew to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or to Guam—excuse me, where he gave a speech saying that never again should the United States allow another nation to strike in the middle of the night, to attack another defenseless nation. This was on Pearl Harbor Day, of course. Realizing full well that another day of infamy was unfolding in Dili, East Timor. As thousands of Indonesian paratroopers, trained by the United States, using US supplied weapons, indeed jumping from United States supplied airplanes, were descending upon the capital city of Dili and massacring literally thousands of people in the hours and days after December 7, 1975.
But why help Suharto in this massacre? Goodman gets more insight from Allan Nairn (journalist and co-producer of "Massacre: the Story East Timor"):
ALLAN NAIRN: [...] when I asked Ford whether he did in fact authorize the invasion of East Timor, he said, “Frankly, I don't recall.” He didn't remember. And I believed him.
What Ford said was that there were many topics on the agenda that day with Suharto [2 days before the invasion]. Timor was not very high on the agenda. It was one of the lesser topics, and he just couldn't remember whether he had authorized this invasion, which ended up killing 1/3 of the Timorese population. And it's kind of an illustration of the fact that when, like the United States, you're a global power with regimes everywhere dependant on your weapons, you can start wars, authorize wars, take actions that result in mass deaths in a fairly casual way.
In this case, the US didn't have a great interest in East Timor. All the evidence suggests that they didn’t particularly care one way or the other whether Timor became independent. But as a favor to Suharto, who was close to Washington, who was their protégée, they decided to let him go ahead with the invasion. So, for just a marginal, fleeting gain – or, out of doing a favor for a buddy -- they ended up causing a mass murder that proportionally was the most intensive killing since the Nazis, a third of the population killed.
So that's it, eh? Suharto was a buddy. A pal. A hail-fellow-well-met. Pity about those dead bodies. We're gonna need some redacting pens and a few more Chevy Chase pratfalls to erase this...

Ok. Here's the thing: I know Ford will be most remembered for his pardoning of Nixon. A close second? Probably his graceless tumble down those airplane steps. But I gotta many of us twigged to the Indonesian invasion of East-Timor, yesterday morning? "Not I," said the little red-hen.

This omission from "the record" as we know it is a testament to the failure of so many institutions...journaMAlism, history-ographics. You name it. To experience the death of Ford as the loss of a benign caretaker-president is to miss the wakes of thousands-upon-thousands of lost souls.


Anonymous skdadl said...

Great post, Godammitkitty.

I certainly didn't catch up on East Timor until years after the invasion. I did think of Ford as someone who was good only at putting the lid on troubles that hadn't actually been solved. You can hear the carelessness of the powerful towards their victims, especially the ones they think of as their minor victims, just victims along the way, in some of those reported statements.

American foreign policy moves on inexorably. It's hard to imagine ever thinking of an American president as benign, although one can certainly imagine worse and worser.

12/28/2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

You can hear the carelessness of the powerful towards their victims, especially the ones they think of as their minor victims, just victims along the way...

You hit the nail on the head, skdadl!

12/28/2006 11:26 AM  
Anonymous skdadl said...

I did think that Ford's comments about Kissinger were very funny. I always enjoy hearing funny Kissinger stories.

12/28/2006 1:43 PM  

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