Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that the United States has learned anything from the disaster of Iraq, writes Thomas Powers in his New York Review of Books piece on James Risen's new book on the history of the Bush administration's relationship to the CIA.  --  Watergate led to a vigorous political reaction, but there has been no "Iraqgate."  --  The difference of course, not spelled out in the articles below, is the effectiveness of the post-9/11 politics of fear upon which the Bush administration and, tragically, the bulk of the Democratic Party, base their legitimacy.  --  The feebleness of America's institutions in the face of what is a clear and manifest threat to the core values of the U.S. Constitution is all the harder to understand, given that the threat derives from the actions of a very few (albeit powerful) individuals -- essentially, the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal," in the words of Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.  --  As Tom Engelhardt points out in his introduction to Powers's review of Risen's new book, "a wide-ranging legal justification for the President's right to do whatever he cared to do as long as we were 'at war' burst from the fevered brows of a few top officials and a small group of administration lawyers."[1]  --  This impetus to, as Engelhardt says, "always expand" the powers of the executive was ideological, not practical, in nature: it sprouted from "modest seeds and simply grew and grew without bounds or even any particular relationship to their efficacy."  --  "Where's Nancy Reagan and her 'just say no' program when we need them most?" he quips.  --  Thomas Powers, for his part, is convinced there is something significant the administration is hiding:  "And far from saving 'thousands of lives,' as claimed by Vice President Dick Cheney in December 2005, the NSA [warrantless eavesdropping] program never led investigators to a genuine terrorist not already under suspicion, nor did it help them to expose any dangerous plots.  So why did the administration continue this lumbering effort for three years?  Outsiders sometimes find it tempting to dismiss such wheel-spinning as bureaucratic silliness, but I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants."[2]  --  What that might be, Powers does not say.  --  Neither of these pieces even begins to address the question:  Why has Congress failed the American people? ...


For reasons impossible to ascertain, the Financial Times published a review of Niall Ferguson's history of modern finance, The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000, but without naming the volume (in the online version of the article, at least), on Dec. 27, 2005, almost five years after the book's publication.  --  Perhaps it was lost in a drawer.  --  Stephen Fidler's review asserts that virtually all financial transactions can be reduced to loans, bets, or trades: "understand these building blocks and you understand, at root, what financial markets are about." ...


Bernard-Henri Lévy's War, Evil, and the End of History was first published in French in 2003, in the U.S. in English translation in 2004, and in the U.K. a few months ago.  --  On Friday, the Financial Times gave it a positive review: "Levy's book is a genuine effort by a thinker to confront dire situations, hard to fathom or accept, and to bring the resource of philosophy to bear upon them. Look beyond the manner to the matter and there is a great deal that is moving, informative, and deeply thought-provoking there." -- "The main bulk of Levy's book consists of long footnotes to the essays on the desperate countries he visited [Colombia, Angola, the Sudan, Burundi, and Sri Lanka (and later, Afghanistan)].  The essays appeared in Le Monde during the summer of 2001 . . . Some of the footnotes are long meditations invoking Hegel, Nietzsche, Stephan Zweig, Proust, Karl Kraus, Cocteau, Apollinaire, indeed the entire pantheons of several cultural traditions, seeking their aid in examining the bitterness and inhumanity of today's frightful civil wars and terrorism." ...