EDITORIAL: Change policy, not just faces

When President Bush announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a key architect and executor of the disastrous and criminal U.S. war on Iraq, it was more good news on top of the Nov. 7 election results.

But, while Rumsfeld is going, U.S. troops are still in Iraq. Bush’s appointment of former CIA head Robert Gates to take Rumsfeld’s place does not mean that the president intends to heed the voters’ message: get out of Iraq.

Gates carries heavy baggage. He was tied to the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-80s — Republican independent counsel Lawrence Walsh concluded that Gates was in the arms-for-drugs scheme with Oliver North up to his neck. However, Gates was not prosecuted.

President George H.W. Bush appointed Gates CIA director in 1991. During his tenure at the CIA, a storm of criticism swirled around him charging he “politicized” the agency to fit the administration’s line, including on the first Gulf War.

But regardless of who fills Rumsfeld’s seat at the Pentagon, it’s the policy that counts. The mandate of the voters on Nov. 7 was clear: ending the Iraq debacle was at the top of their concerns, and was a key reason why they booted the Republicans out. They don’t want more of the “same ole, same ole,” with just a different face.

Speaking of the CIA, the agency has now admitted the existence of two documents showing that the trail of torture and violation of international law leads right to the Bush White House. One is a directive signed by President Bush authorizing the CIA to set up prisons outside the U.S. and outlining interrogation methods that could be used against detainees. The other is a 2002 Justice Department analysis specifying “aggressive” interrogation methods that could be used. The CIA claims releasing the documents would damage national security and violate attorney-client privilege.

Voters last week expressed a clear yearning for integrity and transparency in government, respect for the Constitution, and a Congress that uses its oversight power on behalf of the people. That message should be ringing in the ears of the new Congress.