– 2007-01-01 21:19:08
Gerald Ford, Unsentimentally
Matthew Rothschild / The Progressive
(December 27, 2006) — Sorry, but I refuse to let my tear ducts open over the death of Gerald Ford.
There’s something profoundly undemocratic and vaguely medieval about the almost mandatory salutes that we, the people, are supposed to offer when a former President dies.
The niceties of custom all too often reinforce the habits of blind obedience to the unworthy wielders of power.
Say no ill of the dead, we are told.
Hogwash. Let’s look at Gerald Ford’s record.
The first thing he did was to pardon Richard Nixon, even though ten days previously he had said that the special prosecutor should proceed against “any and all individuals” and a year before, he averred that “I do not think the public would stand for it.”
The pardon short-circuited the necessary prosecution of Nixon, which would have served as a salutary check on future inhabitants of the Oval Office. Instead, the pardon set a precedent for such flagrant lawbreakers as we have in the White House today.
If impeachment of Bush and Cheney may be just a remote possibility, prosecution and incarceration remain inconceivable. And so Bush and Cheney, thanks to Ford, can float comfortably above the law.
On domestic policy, Ford was a standard issue Republican, vetoing social spending bills, cutting food stamps and housing and education programs, infamously denying aid to New York City while all the while boosting Pentagon spending. And, in a move Bush and Cheney would have applauded, he proposed the nation’s first official secrets act to provide criminal penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of classified material.
On foreign policy, Ford was damnable.
He fronted for Pinochet in Chile, and kept aid flowing to that vicious strongman.
And on December 6, 1975, Ford and Henry Kissinger flew to Jakarta to meet with dictator Suharto and to give him a green light to invade East Timor.
According to a declassified State Department cable, here was part of their conversation.
Suharto to Ford and Kissinger: “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.”
Ford: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.”
Kissinger: “We understand your problem and the need to move quickly, but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.”
Ford and Kissinger returned to the United States, and Suharto launched his invasion hours later. Suharto’s invasion and occupation cost the lives of 200,000 Timorese.
But never mind. We’re not supposed to remember those things. Just that Jerry Ford was such a nice guy.
Ford: Iraq War Was Not Justified
Bob Woodward / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON (December 28, 2006) — Former President Gerald Ford said in an newly disclosed interview that the Iraq war was not justified.
“I don’t think I would have gone to war,” he said in July 2004, a little more than a year after President Bush had launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford’s own administration.
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 Dick Cheney–Ford’s White House chief of staff–and then-Defense Secretary Donald 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.”
Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.
“Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Ford said, referring to Bush’s assertion that the United States has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation No. 1, of what’s in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
The Ford interview–and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005–took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.
“He was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Ford said. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president. He said he agreed with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion that Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”
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.”
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
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