High Plains Grifter: The Life and Crimes of George W. Bush

September 16, 2004 at 3:01 pm
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Hey folks,

I ran across a pretty interesting series of articles, written last week by Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch.org and the author of several books, including Imperial Crusades. I’d encourage you to read them. Though I’ve read most of the material elsewhere, Mr. St. Clair did a pretty good job of hitting the high points with an ascerbic wit, and a sometimes over-the-top meaness, that, when viewed in the context of the Bush administration’s tactics, seem unfortunately appropriate. As sad as that is to say. Note: Be sure to scroll down once the page loads. There is a subscription section at the top that may take up the full page at lower browser resolutions. The articles are below that section.

Part One: The Ties That Blind

There were two rather shocking quotes in Part One. Barbara Bush on Good Morning America, about the escalating

body count in Iraq: “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many,” the Presidential Mother

snapped.” It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” In this

article, Mr. St. Clair spares no venom for the elder Mrs. Bush.

George Soros was one of the wealthy investors (as was Mohammad bin Laden, father of Osama) that bailed out Harken Oil (one of Bush’s early business failures). Interesting tidbit, when viewed in the light of how desperately Mr. Soros now is to get Bush out of the White House. One of the investors in Harken was George Soros, who explained the bail out of Bush in frank terms. “We were

buying political influence. That was it. Bush wasn’t much of a businessman.”

Part Two: Mark His Words

(Cheney) later rationalized the decision not to depose Saddam (in the first Gulf war) or support uprisings by

Iraqi and Kurdish rebels, predicting that the fall of the Ba’athists would destabilize the entire region. How

right you were, Dick.

Part Three: More Pricks Than Kicks

This administration’s Iran/Contra doppleganger could be the alleged leaking of state secrets to Israeli

intelligence by members of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, namely Larry Franklin and Douglas Feith.

Here’s something I didn’t know: “Feith himself is no stranger to such inquiries into leaking classified

information to the Israelis. In 1982, Feith was fired from his position as an analyst on Middle East issues in

the Reagan administration’s National Security Council on suspicion of leaking material to the an official with

the Israeli embassy in Washington.” Wow. Didn’t know that. I just hope this story gets the coverage it


Part Four: Jesus Told Him Where to Bomb

The maintenance of this creepy state of affairs depends on the mainlining of anxiety, inculcating an

ever-tender sense of trauma in the psyche of the populace. Thus, the color-coded terror alerts, issued with the

precision of a metronome.

Look for Part Five: The House Rules on Tuesday, at http://www.counterpunch.org.


Iraq and 9-11: Wrong About Everything

September 13, 2004 at 6:01 pm
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Today’s Progress Report was so packed with good info, I decided to repost the whole thing here. (And I’ll say it again: sign up to receive their free, daily email, and read it every day! They are simply the best.) It’s a start on something I’ve been wanting to write for GRL for some time now, showing that despite the spin we’re fed every day, the Bush administration has been, as a matter of fact, wrong about everything.

  • We were told that Iraq definitely, absolutely, had WMD, and was a serious threat to our national security. Wrong. No such threat ever existed, and we now know that they did all they could to gin up evidence and distort the truth to push us into war. In fact we know they’d decided to do that a long time before, even before 9-11. We were hoodwinked.
  • We were told that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and that the war would be short. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The war continues at higher levels of hostilities today than the day after Dubya made his little aircraft carrier photo op. Over 1,000 of our soldiers, and untold thousands of Iraqis, have been killed for no good reason.
  • They said the cost of the war would be $87 billion. As a “supplemental” funding provision, so it wouldn’t mess up the pretty picture of their defense budget. And they fired the administration official who said the real cost would be closer to $200 billion. Guess which one was right?
  • They promised that life would be better for Iraqis after Saddam was gone, that we’d repair their country and they’d be grateful. In fact, there is less of a functioning infrastructure now than there was before we went in. Another “miscalculation,” or an outright lie designed to manufacture consent for their war?
  • They promised that the war would be largely self-financed by Iraqi oil. That’s probably the worst joke of all. Billions in revenue from their oil has gone “missing” while Halliburton et. al. have profited to the tune of billions in no-bid contracts, where most of that money came from you and me. Another “miscalculation?”
  • They promised that Iraq would be self-governing quickly and effectively. That now seems like a distant and unrealistic hope. They can’t even stage a safe and complete election now.
  • Bush promised that taking out Saddam would make America safer. Some of us dissented, saying that it would be more like whacking a hornet’s nest, and in all likelihood would result in fomenting more anti-U.S. sentiment and chaos–a perfect breeding ground for terrorism. We were denounced as unpatriotic, even traitors, for refusing to go along with that “safer” line. Guess who was right? And yet Bush still insists that somehow, he’s made us safer. Without any evidence to support that claim.
  • We were told that there were definitely links between al Qaeda and Saddam. And that the Saudis did not have any direct connection to Islamic fundamentalists. I always said that the inverse was actually true, and guess what, now we have the evidence. The 9-11 Commission debunked any assertion of links between Saddam and al Qaeda, as had others before them, and yet Bush and Cheney have continued to claim that those connections existed. As if were were all too stupid to believe anything other than what they said. And now we have the families of the victims of 9-11 suing the Saudis for their *indirect* support of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, because that’s were a lot of al Qaeda’s money came from. (To be fair, it indirectly came from you and me, via the oil we bought from them. And let’s not forget that bin Laden’s gang was financed and trained by the US to fight a proxy war against the U.S.S.R. for us in Afghanistan.)
  • Bush and Condi and the gang told us that they had no warning about the 9-11 attacks. We now know that in fact they did have numerous and very specific warnings, from the CIA and Richard Clarke, our terrorism expert, that al Qaeda was planning a massive attack, probably using hijacked planes. But somehow, the Bush team didn’t see those warnings as urgent or “actionable.” They were dead wrong.
  • Bush and Giuliani reassured New Yorkers that there was no environmental threat to fear from the WTC collapse. Wrong again. And now the lawsuits are starting to come. Was that a “mis-” something or other? Oh, come on. It was a flat-out lie. They had the evidence that the levels of various toxins were far higher than was safe, and they squelched it.
  • When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, Bush assured us that it was the work of “a few bad apples.” Now we know that top lawyers working for Bush had dissembled about Geneva Convention protections, and come up with rationales to permit torture. We know that shadowy military police and CIA figures were at the center of the abuse, and we know that dozens of high ranking officers knew about the abuse and either ordered it, permitted it, or ignored it. What kind of a “mis-” is that?

It’s a long list. Longer than I have time for. In fact it might be easier to ask the opposite question: of all the claims that the Bush administration and the neo-con chicken hawks have made, which of them have been right?

They’ve been wrong about everything. And they have stopped at nothing to discredit, ruin, and paint as traitors anyone who stood for the truth and disagreed with them. So what’s wrong with the Americans who would rather ignore all of the evidence, believe the lies, and continue to support Bush? How can they continue to trust someone who has so blatantly and repeatedly abused that trust? Has fear made us so blind to the truth?



The Progress Report 9/13/2004
by David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin

Correction: In Friday’s Progress Report, we mistakenly said $145 million has been spent by the U.S. government in Iraq. The figure is actually $145 billion. We regret the error.

Out Of Control

The mission in Iraq is far, far from accomplished. A surge in deadly violence this weekend brought the bloodiest day in Iraq in recent months; suicide bombings, mortar fire and fierce battles between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi security forces, including a firefight between an Iraqi crowd and a U.S. helicopter crew, killed dozens, leaving even more injured. Attacks against U.S. forces now average 87 per day, the worst monthly average, reports Newsweek, “since Bush’s flight-suited visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003.” Casualty figures keep escalating: the U.S. death toll passed 1,000 last week and over 7,000 have been wounded. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted this weekend, “We did miscalculate the difficulty” of winning the peace in Iraq.

FALLUJAH FAILINGS: In a significant setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, Fallujah, one of the nation’s biggest cities, is now entirely under the control of rebel insurgents. This weekend, the Iraqi military force put in place in the explosive city by the Marines disbanded. There is strong evidence that many members have been working with insurgents against the U.S. forces that provided them with weapons and paychecks. Last April, the White House withdrew Marine troops from the city, hoping the newly created Brigade would work with the Iraqi government to fight the insurgency. The city quickly fell under the control of the insurgents, as many in the Brigade openly joined the rebel forces against the United States. Today, the city is a safe haven for insurgents, a place to “take refuge, plot attacks and run manufacturing centers for car bombs and other explosives.”

GENERAL DISAGREES WITH APPROACH TO FALLUJAH: Lt. Gen. James Conway, the outgoing U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of western Iraq, said yesterday that he had disagreed with the hasty order that sent his troops to invade Fallujah in April as well as the subsequent decision to withdraw from the city and turn over control to the disloyal Brigade. Conway said the disastrous assault increased tensions while making the region more hostile to U.S. forces: “We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah, that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge.” Instead, higher ups insisted on the attack, and then demanded troops pull out when the fighting grew fierce. “I would simply say that when you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to understand the consequences of that, and not, perhaps, vacillate in the middle of that. Once you commit to do that, you have to stay committed.” Marine Col. Jerry Durrant agrees: “The whole Fallujah Brigade thing was a fiasco.”

LIGHTS OUT IN IRAQ: Nineteen months after the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has failed to achieve significant reconstruction, contributing to the ongoing frustrations of the Iraqi people. According to Bathsheba Crocker, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, when it comes to economic opportunity, services, and social well-being, “Iraq is actually moving backward.” The Los Angeles Times reports the job of restoring electricity to war-torn Iraq is “steeped in errors and misjudgment.” Electricity for Iraqis was central to White House reconstruction plans, but today, Iraq’s largest source of electricity, the Baiji power plant, “produces less than half the electricity it generated” two years ago. Why is the country still in the dark? Lack of planning, inconsistent leadership and an over-reliance on private contractors. The Bush administration “vastly underestimated the time, money and effort needed to restore the country’s power grid.” It’s indicative of the failures of the entire reconstruction process, still marked by “tainted water supplies, limited sewage treatment and curtailed construction of public buildings.” The ongoing failure has dire ramifications for the unstable security situation, producing “a deep reservoir of confusion and anger that feeds the country’s deadly insurgency.”

PROBLEMS WITH DEMOCRACY: The increased violence has serious ramifications for the scheduled elections. “We’re dealing with a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility,” says a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. “This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy. We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose.” The Bush White House is blithely insisting elections will occur in January as planned. Security concerns, however, have left others less confident. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated this weekend on Meet the Press that “It would be lovely if they took place in January, but I sure don’t see it.” Iraqi officials are also increasingly skeptical. One senior Iraqi official told Newsweek, “I’m convinced that it’s not going to happen. It’s just not realistic. How is it going to happen?” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed that thought, saying, “The timetable really depends at the end of the day on the security situation.” Some worry that the Bush administration, desperate to avoid the appearance of yet another setback, will stick to the schedule despite ongoing problems. Ghassan Atiyya, director of the independent Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy, warns, “Badly prepared elections, rather than healing wounds, will open them.”

Bush’s Deafening Silence

In 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush supported the ban on assault weapons, saying “it makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society.” In 2003, then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Bush not only “supports the reauthorization of the current assault weapons ban” but would “work with Congress” to make sure it remained the law. But during his presidency, “Mr. Bush has never once demanded that his G.O.P. leaders cease playing first responder to the demands of the gun lobby and take the initiative” to extend the assault weapons ban. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, military assault weapons will – once again – be freely available across the country. (For more Bush flip-flops check out President Bush: Flip-Flopper in Chief.)

NO SURPRISE TO THE NRA: In 2000, NRA First Vice President Kayne Robinson said that if George Bush was elected “we’ll have…a president where we work out of their office” and that the NRA had “unbelievably friendly relations” with Bush. The Los Angeles Times describes the expiration of the ban as “a trophy Bush can lay at the NRA’s feet as the group readies its presidential endorsement.” Pressure from the NRA also caused Sen. Norm Coleman – who supported extending the ban during his 2002 campaign – to switch his position.

ASSAULT WEAPONS POSE ACUTE THREAT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT: According to a 2002 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, assault weapons “pose an enhanced threat to law enforcement, in part because of their ability to expel projectiles at velocities that are capable of penetrating the type of soft body armor typically worn by the law enforcement officers.” Last week, scores of law enforcement personnel from around the country – including police chiefs from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Seattle – assembled at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial “to demand that President Bush and Congress reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban before it expires.”

GUN MANUFACTURERS READY: Gun manufactures have already been “taking orders for semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines” that will become legal tonight at midnight. The gun manufacturer Beretta “has been offering customers two free 15-round magazines after Sept. 14 with the purchase of two of its weapons.” Current law “restricts the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.” Armalite Inc. is “allowing customers to order banned assault weapons now and have them shipped once the ban is lifted.” Israel Military Industries Ltd. is expected to reintroduce Uzis to the U.S. market. Robert A. Ricker, a former executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, predicted “an incredible buying frenzy.”

BROAD SUPPORT FOR EXTENDING THE BAN: A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that 68 percent of Americans support the ban. Support for the ban extends to all demographics: 61 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of people who live in rural areas and 62 percent of conservatives. Among people who have a gun in their home, a solid majority – 57 percent – support extending the ban.

BOON FOR TERRORISTS: The impact of the expiration of the assault weapons ban may be broader than you think: newly legal assault weapons could find their way into the hands of al Qaeda terrorists. An al Qaeda training manual recovered in Afghanistan urged terrorists “to come to America and buy assault weapons.”

Novak’s Duplicity

In a move of stunning hypocrisy this weekend, journalist Bob Novak went on CNN to demand CBS News reveal the confidential sources which gave them President Bush’s National Guard records. On the Capital Gang, Novak, who has strenusously claimed his right as a reporter not to reveal his sources to law enforcement officials in the leak of an undercover CIA agent, said, “I’d like CBS, at this point, to say where they got these documents from.” He then repeated himself: “I think they should say where they got these documents.” The Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt was perplexed, asking Novak, “You’re saying CBS should reveal its source?” He replied, “Yes.” Hunt asked again, “You think reporters ought to reveal sources?” Novak, then embarrassed said, “No, no. Wait a minute…I’m just saying in that case.” Hunt summed up, “So in some cases, reporters ought to reveal sources?” Novak replied, “Yes.”


NATIONAL SECURITY – POWELL DISSES CHENEY: Just days after Vice President Dick Cheney embarrassed himself by claiming terrorists would attack America if people voted for John Kerry, he and the Bush campaign sought to “clarify his remarks.” They said Cheney actually meant that Kerry would not respond as forcefully as Bush when an attack occurs. But Secretary of State Colin Powell disagreed. Asked how he believes Sen. John F. Kerry would respond to a terrorist attack, Powell said, “As commander in chief, I think he’d respond to it in a robust way.” Powell had already made news earlier in the week, as British journalist James Naughtie reported the Secretary of State called neo-cons Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz “f—ing crazies.”

9/11 – MORE POTENTIAL DEATHS THAN ACTUAL ATTACKS: According to the UK Independent, which cited a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Up to 400,000 New Yorkers breathed in the most toxic polluting cloud ever recorded after the twin towers were brought down three years ago, but no proper effort has been made to find out how their health has been affected.” The report “provides the latest evidence of a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths than the attacks themselves.” The Bush administration “suppressed evidence of increasing danger” and officially announced that the air around the felled buildings was “safe to breathe.” Another report reveals that it has since “failed at least a dozen times to correct its assurances, even when it became clear that people were becoming sick.” Just days after 9/11, the White House’s Council of Environmental Quality – headed by a former asbestos industry lawyer-lobbyist – doctored EPA press releases to claim the air was safe to breathe. In fact, “Asbestos was found at 27 times acceptable levels” near Ground Zero. After that, the White House refused to immediately fund critical health screening tests for those exposed to toxic chemicals during the attack, instead waiting two-and-a-half years to address the situation.

FOREIGN POLICY – FREUDIAN SLIP?: Apparently, the Bush administration has conflated Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden so many times that even its own officials have become confused. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mixed up the names of bin Laden and Hussein twice in a speech at the National Press Club on Friday, at one point referring to Hussein as the leader of the al Qaeda-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. At another point Rumsfeld said, “Saddam Hussein, if he’s alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught. And we’ve not seen him on a video since 2001.” He meant bin Laden. Rumsfeld might just be following the White House script. After all, in 2002 Bush said, “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.”

TERRORISM – PUTIN’S RESPONSE: Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken swift action in response to a spate of deadly terrorist attacks in Russia, but some are concerned he is using terrorism as an excuse to consolidate his own power. In contrast to President Bush’s foot-dragging on creating the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, Putin has quickly proposed a new federal agency to “engage non-governmental organizations and other groups to mobilize society in the fight against terror.” But some of Putin’s other proposed changes could limit democracy in the country. He is seeking changes in election procedure, for instance, which could “further increase the clout of the pro-Kremlin faction and its allies that already enjoy an overwhelming majority.” Putin also plans to propose legislation providing for regional governors in the Duma to be elected by regional legislatures “on the recommendation of the president. Putin had already seriously cut into the governors’ powers but he appears intent on doing away with any vestiges of their autonomy.”

HOMELAND SECURITY – INSECURE BORDERS: An investigation by Time Magazine supports 9/11 Commission findings that the Bush administration has failed to establish effective border security since 9/11. Time reports, “Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy—and on the rise. Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America…The U.S.’s borders, rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous. And the trend has accelerated in the past year.” A nationwide survey of the U.S. Border Patrol conducted last month found the majority of the nation’s customs and border officials believe “they are ill-equipped to prevent another terrorist attack.” Read more about the Bush administration’s inadequate efforts to improve border control and plug other gaps in Homeland Security in American Progress’ report, “Failing Grades.”


DAILY TALKING POINTS: Conservatives Aiding and Abetting Terrorists and Criminals.

EDUCATION: American Progress’s Ben Hubbard and David Halperin on the myth of the liberal campus.

ECONOMY: That Rosy Unemployment Rate.

IRAQ: Salem Chalabi, failing to return to Iraq to face murder charges, reportedly removed from overseeing Saddam’s trial.

JUSTICE: Study finds judges appointed by President Bush are the most conservative on record in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

9/11: New York’s Port Authority joins lawsuit against Saudi Arabia for terror attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans.


“They could sense I would be one of the great pilots of all time.”

- George W. Bush on his military service, 1988


“George W. Bush began flying a two-seat jet especially designed for training purposes more frequently in the weeks just before he quit flying for the Texas Air National Guard… The T-33 jet is designed to help train pilots early in their career, allowing for a more experienced pilot to sit behind a trainee before the trainee is permitted to fly solo in a single-pilot jet.”

- AP, 9/10/04


Bob Novak, who won’t reveal who helped him disclose the identity of an undercover CIA operative, went on CNN and demanded CBS reveal its confidential sources.

© Copyright 2004 by American Progress Action Fund. All rights reserved.

Project Censored\’s Top 10 Stories of 2004

September 9, 2004 at 6:11 pm
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Every year, Project Censored, “a media research group out of Sonoma State University which tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters,” rounds up the top stories of the year that were ignored by the major media, even though they are hugely important. Here is a summary of their top stories for 2004. Not surprisingly, most of them are topics that GRL has focused on throughout the year. Top among them, in my view, are the ones about Cheney’s secret energy task force, and its increased support of domestic nuclear energy.

Let’s do some quick math:

  • $140 billion in public subsidies for nuclear energy.
  • $140 billion (so far) for the war on Iraq, in order to maintain control over Middle East oil.
  • International energy subsidies in the early 1990s were anywhere from $US235 billion to $US350 billion a year, according to the World Bank and others. [Source: a very interesting Greenpeace article, “The Subsidy Scandal”]

The amount of total subsidies historically is very difficult to come up with, but let’s say it’s an easy three trillion. Care to hazard a guess as to where we’d be today if we’d spent that money on renewable energy instead?

And they say that renewable energy isn’t economically competitive. Sure it isn’t, if you’ve got a giant thumb on the scale.



by Camille T. Taiara

Orlando Weekly

In late July more than 600 people showed up in Monterey, Calif., to speak at a Federal Communications Commission hearing on ownership concentration in the news media. The participants were a diverse group, young and old, activists and workers, but they had a single consistent message: The mainstream news media have been doing a deplorable job of covering the day’s most important stories.

That’s no surprise: Consolidation of the media in the hands of a few corporate Goliaths has resulted in fewer people creating more of the content we see, hear and read. One impact has been a narrower range of perspectives. Another is the virtual disappearance of hard-hitting, original, investigative reporting.

“Corporate media has abdicated their responsibility to the First Amendment to keep the American electorate informed about important issues in society and instead serves up a pabulum of junk-food news,” says Peter Phillips, head of Sonoma State University’s Project Censored.

Every year researchers at Project Censored pick through volumes of print and broadcast news to see which of the past year’s most important stories aren’t receiving the kind of attention they deserve. Phillips and his team acknowledge that many of these stories weren’t “censored” in the traditional sense of the word: No government agency blocked their publication. And some even appeared – briefly and without follow-up – in mainstream journals.

But every one of this year’s picks merited prominent placement on the evening news and the dailies’ front pages. Instead they went virtually ignored.

This list speaks directly to the point FCC critics have raised: Stories that address fundamental issues of wealth concentration and big-business dominance of the political agenda are almost entirely missing from the national debate. From the dramatic increase in wealth inequality in the United States, to the wholesale giveaway of the nation’s natural resources, to the Bush administration’s attack on corporate and political accountability, events and trends that ought to be dominating the presidential campaign and the national dialogue are missing from the front pages.

Here are Project Censored’s 10 biggest examples of major stories that have been relegated to the most obscure corners of the media world.


As the mainstream news media recite the official line about the nation’s supposed economic recovery, a key point has been missing: Wealth inequality in the United States has almost doubled over the past 30 years.

In fact, the Federal Reserve Board’s most recent “Survey of Consumer Finances” supplement on high-income families shows that in 1998, the richest 1 percent of households owned 38 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top 5 percent owned almost 60 percent of the wealth.

But that’s just part of the problem. “Most Americans believe we take from people at the top to benefit those below,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter David Cay Johnston said in a BuzzFlash.com interview. But our tax system is actually set up such that “people who make $30,000 to $500,000 … give relief to those who make millions, or tens and hundreds of millions, of dollars a year.”

The United States isn’t alone: Today, almost one-sixth of the world’s population – 940 million people – “already live in squalid, unhealthy areas, mostly without water, sanitation, public services or legal security,” John Vidal wrote in the U.K. Guardian. A recent United Nations report predicted that, absent drastic change to reverse “a form of colonialism that is probably more stringent than the original,” one in every three people worldwide will live in slums within 30 years. That’s a bigger threat to democracy and global stability than Al Qaeda and international terrorism.

Sources: “The Wealth Divide” (interview with Edward Wolff), Multinational Monitor, May 2003. “A BuzzFlash Interview, Parts I and II” (with David Cay Johnson), BuzzFlash staff, BuzzFlash.com, March 26 and 29, 2004. “Every Third Person Will Be a Slum Dweller Within 30 Years, UN Agency Warns,” John Vidal, Guardian (U.K.), Oct. 4, 2003. “Grotesque Inequality,” Robert Weissman, Multinational Monitor, July-August 2003.


For decades the United States has trained right-wing insurgents and torturers, toppled democratically elected governments and propped up brutal dictatorships abroad – all in the interest of corporate profits. But rarely are the agents of repression ever held accountable for the tens of thousands of deaths and the brutal cycles of poverty, subjugation, environmental destruction and violence they leave in their wake. Indeed, many foreign tyrants go on to enjoy plush retirement right here in the United States.

But recently lawyers have found a way to seek at least a modicum of justice for victims. The Alien Tort Claims Act, a 215-year-old law originally passed to prosecute pirates for crimes committed on the high seas, allows noncitizens to sue any individual or corporation present on U.S. soil.

Human rights lawyers have pursued 100 cases under the ATCA since 1980. Defendants have included former high-ranking government and military officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, Paraguay, the Philippines (including ex-president Ferdinand Marcos), Indonesia, Bosnia, Ethiopia and elsewhere. And although the law can only be used to pursue monetary damages rather than prison time, it has often resulted in victims being awarded millions of dollars – and in the perpetrators sometimes fleeing the country rather than paying up.

Ten years ago victims began using the act to go after corporate profiteers too: It was thanks to the ATCA, for example, that Holocaust survivors were able to seek redress from the Swiss banks and companies that profited from the slave labor of concentration camp internees during World War II.

But Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has set its sights on the act, claiming in a brief last year that the law threatens “important foreign policy interests” associated with the war on terrorism. Yet hardly a word has been written in the mainstream media about the Bush administration’s attack on the main legal recourse left in the United States for victims to seek redress for human rights violations carried out abroad.

Source: “Ashcroft Goes After 200-Year-Old Human Rights Law,” Jim Lobe, OneWorld.net and Asheville Global Report, May 19, 2003.


Tampering with data that threatens corporate profits is much more widespread under Bush than we’ve been led to believe. And the Environmental Protection Agency has emerged as one of the administration’s primary targets.

One of the first White House moves – on the day Bush was inaugurated – was to fire engineer Tony Oppegard, the leader of a federal team investigating a 300-million-gallon slurry spill at a coal-mining site in Kentucky. “Black lava-like toxic sludge containing 60 poisonous chemicals choked and sterilized up to 100 miles of rivers and creeks,” environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in The Nation. The EPA dubbed it “the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States.”

Bush then appointed industry insiders to top EPA posts in charge of mine safety and health.

In another case, a week after the EPA released a study to congressional staff about the toxic effects on groundwater of hydraulic fracturing – a process of injecting benzene into the ground to extract oil and gas, used by Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company – the agency revised its findings in response to “industry feedback” to indicate that the practice posed no threat after all.

In the days and months following the World Trade Center attack, the EPA released more than a dozen statements claiming the air quality in the surrounding “control zone” was safe – despite evidence that asbestos dust was present in quantities well above the 1 percent safety benchmark. The agency opened up the area to the public a mere week after the attack, allowing Wall Street to reopen and cleanup activities to begin. As a result, 88 percent of rescue workers suffered ear, nose and throat ailments, and 78 percent suffered lung maladies, according to a Mt. Sinai School of Medicine study. Half suffered persistent respiratory problems up to a year later.

In November the EPA arranged for Syngenta, the Swiss manufacturer of Atrazine, to take over federal research of its product, the most widely used weed killer in the United States. This occurred despite evidence that high concentrations of Atrazine in groundwater may be responsible for 50-percent-below-normal semen counts in men in U.S. farming communities, is associated with high incidences of prostate cancer and has resulted in grotesque deformities in frogs when present “at one-thirtieth the government’s ‘safe’ three parts per billion level,” Kennedy wrote.

The administration has also suppressed scientific findings on global warming in a dozen major government studies over the past two years, according to Kennedy.

The problem isn’t limited to the EPA. In fact, government interference in scientific research has gotten so bad that 60 of the country’s top scientists – including 20 Nobel laureates – issued a statement in February citing the ways the Bush administration has distorted scientific data “for partisan political ends” and calling for regulatory action.

Sources: “The Junk Science of George W. Bush,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., The Nation, March 8, 2004. “Censoring Scientific Information,” Censorship News: The National Coalition Against Censorship Newsletter, fall 2003. “Ranking Scientists Warn Bush Science Policy Lacks Integrity,” Environmental News Service correspondents, OneWorld.net, Feb. 20, 2004. “Politics and Science in the Bush Administration,” Committee on Government Reform – minority staff, office of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, August 2003 (updated Nov. 13, 2003).


Last year Project Censored included the United States’ and Great Britain’s continued use of depleted-uranium weapons – despite ample evidence of their acute health effects – among its top 10 underreported stories. Almost 10,000 U.S. troops died within 10 years of serving in the first Gulf War, researchers had found. And more than a third of those still alive had filed Gulf War Syndrome-related claims.

In study after study, research pointed to the use of depleted uranium in U.S. and British weaponry as the culprit. But authorities concentrated their efforts into obfuscating the problem – downplaying its reach, discrediting scientists and ailing military personnel and erecting a smoke screen around the root causes of the “syndrome.”

More recently, the Uranium Medical Research Center, an independent group of U.S. and Canadian scientists that has conducted studies of Afghan civilians, found overwhelming evidence that the United States is also using nondepleted uranium in its weapons, which is far more radioactive than depleted uranium. “If the use of NDU indicates experimental application of new nuclear weapons, as the UMRC suggests, then it should alert the public that proliferation of small nuclear weaponry, proposed for some future use, has in fact already begun,” Stephanie Hiller wrote in Awakened Woman.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan in Tokyo in December, a team of attorneys from Japan, the United States and Germany indicted Bush on a number of war crimes charges – among them the use of depleted-uranium weapons. Leuren Moret, president of Scientists for Indigenous People, testified at the trial and later reported that a U.S. government study conducted on the babies of Gulf War veterans conceived after the soldiers returned home found that a full two-thirds suffered from serious birth defects or illnesses, including being born without eyes or ears, or with missing or malformed organs or limbs. In Iraq, Moret said, the defects are even worse. But those are just some of the images of war we never see on the evening news.

Sources: “UMRC’s Preliminary Findings From Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Afghan Field Trip #2 Report: Precision Destruction, Indiscriminate Effects,” Tedd Weyman, UMRC Research Team, Uranium Medical Research Center, January 2003. “Scientists Uncover Radioactive Trail in Afghanistan,” Stephanie Hiller, Awakened Woman, January 2004. “There Are No Words … Radiation in Iraq Equals 250,000 Nagasaki Bombs,” Bob Nichols, Dissident Voice, March 2004. “Poisoned?,” Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News, April 2004. “International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan at Tokyo: The People vs. George Bush,” Niloufer, Bhagwat J., Information Clearinghouse, March 2004.


Adam Werbach, executive director of the Common Assets Defense Fund and former Sierra Club president, reviewed the Bush administration’s environmental policy record and came to a disturbing conclusion: The record is not only bad, it’s “akin to an affirmative action program for corporate polluters,” he wrote in In These Times.

Cheney’s infamous, secretive, industry-laden energy task force produced what can be boiled down to two main recommendations, “lower the environmental bar and pay corporations to jump over it,” Werbach wrote.

For example, Congress has promised $3 billion in tax cuts to mining corporations to help them access natural gas embedded in underground coal deposits in Georgia’s Powder River Basin. The Bureau of Land Management has calculated that miners will waste a full 700 million gallons of publicly owned water a year in the process – thereby sucking the region’s underground aquifers dry and decimating local farms and wildlife.

The Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative essentially entails granting logging companies access to old-growth trees – and then subsidizing them for brush clearing. And even the giant sequoias former president Bill Clinton sought to protect, by creating a 327,000-acre national monument in the southern Sierra Nevada just four years ago, are at risk for being logged at a rate of 10 million board-feet of lumber a year – a higher rate than allowed on surrounding national forest lands – in the name of “forest management.”

All in all, the administration has launched the greatest giveaway of public natural resources in more than a century. Yet few in the mainstream media have bothered to analyze these plans and uncover the lies behind the administration’s rhetorical manipulations.

Sources: “Liquidation of the Commons,” Adam Werbach, In These Times, Nov. 23, 2003. “Giant Sequoias Could Get the Ax,” Matt Weiser, High Country News, June 9, 2003.


The Help America Vote Act required that states submit blueprints for switching to electronic voting systems by Jan. 1, 2004, and implement plans in time for the 2006 elections. Some regions are already using the machines. But those who’ve bothered to look into the new systems are sending up warning flares. Critics say that if Americans don’t want a repeat of the 2000 Florida election fiasco – on a much grander scale – the administration’s plans must be halted in their tracks.

A switch to electronic voting might seem innocent enough at first – until you look at who’s implementing it, and how. Indeed, the transfer represents the privatization of the voting process in the hands of a select few fervent GOP supporters who’ve insisted on keeping their operating systems and codes a trade secret – meaning they enjoy absolute control over the entire voting process, including ballot counting and oversight. There’s no paper trail.

One prime example is Diebold, one of the nation’s top electronic voting machine manufacturers, whose equipment was responsible for the Florida debacle. Diebold already operates more than 40,000 machines in 37 states across the country. Many of these are in Georgia, which in November became the first state to conduct an election entirely with touch-screen machines. Oddly enough, incumbent Democratic governor Roy Barnes lost to Republican candidate Sonny Perdue, 46 percent to 51 percent – “a swing from as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls,” Andrew Gumbel wrote in the U.K. Independent. In the same election, incumbent Democratic senator Max Cleland lost to his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss, thanks to “a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.” And in and around Atlanta, 77 memory cards went missing or were otherwise temporarily unaccounted for before the votes they’d registered could be counted.

Similar upsets occurred “in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and New Hampshire – all in races that had been flagged as key partisan battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party,” Gumbel continued.

“It makes it really hard to show their product has been tampered with if it’s a felony to inspect it,” Rebecca Mercuri, a voting systems specialist and research fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, told the Independent.

The other top two electronic voting machine manufacturers, Sequoia and Election Systems and Software, are equally suspect. Several of their executives have troubling track records of corruption and conflict of interest. All three companies are prominent Republican Party donors.

Sources: “Voting Machines Gone Wild,” Mark Lewellen-Biddle, In These Times, December 2003. “All the President’s Votes?,” Andrew Gumbel, Independent (U.K.), Oct. 13, 2003. “Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver G.W. Another Election?,” Amy Goodman and the staff of Democracy Now!, Sept. 4, 2003.


Ever since the Reagan administration, the neo-conservatives have pursued an aggressive campaign to stack the federal courts with right-wing judges. Their main vehicle: the Federalist Society of Law and Public Policy, an organization founded in 1982 by a small group of radically conservative law students at the University of Chicago.

The effort has been a resounding success. With the help of Republicans in Congress, 85 extra federal judgeships were created under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; 9 were created under Clinton. Now seven out of 12 circuit courts are antiabortion. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are Republican appointees – and it’s been 11 years since a post has opened up, meaning another right-winger or two could be appointed sometime soon. During Bush Sr.’s tenure, one White House insider boasted that no one who wasn’t a Federalist ever received a judicial appointment from the president.

One of George W.’s earliest moves in office was to consolidate the Federalist Society’s power even further: He “simply eliminated the long-standing role in the evaluation of prospective judges by the resolutely centrist American Bar Association, whose ratings had long kept extremists and incompetents off the bench,” Martin Garbus wrote in the American Prospect. “Today the Federalists have more influence in judicial selection than the ABA ever had.”

The Federalist Society now counts Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and prominent members of the conservative American Enterprise Institute among its leadership. Ashcroft, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Solicitor General Theodore Olson and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez – charged with approving judicial nominations before passing them on to Congress – are all members.

The Federalists have consistently in favor of business deregulation, creationist teachings, property rights over the rights of individuals and much of the rest of the right-wing agenda. But one of the principal victims has been the democratic process itself: Remember, it was the Supreme Court that stopped a hand count of 175,000 uncounted (largely Democratic) ballots in Florida, which could have cost Bush the 2000 presidential election. Conservative jurists have interfered with redistricting efforts to reverse the deliberate segregation of African-American and Latino voters and have erected barriers to the participation of third-party candidates in the electoral process.

Unless liberals miraculously bring about a radical turnaround in how federal judges – who enjoy lifetime terms – are appointed, one of George W.’s most long-standing legacies may very well be a hard-right judiciary that lasts for decades to come.

Sources: “A Hostile Takeover: How the Federalist Society Is Capturing the Federal Courts,” Martin Garbus, American Prospect, March 1, 2003. “Courts vs. Citizens,” Jamin Raskin, American Prospect, March 1, 2003.


As the Bush administration continues to protect the iron wall of secrecy it’s erected around Cheney’s energy task force, at least two documents confirm long-standing suspicions that the administration’s foreign policy is being driven by the dictates of the energy industry.

When Bush took office in January 2001, he said tackling the country’s energy crisis would be a top priority. The United States faced nationwide oil and natural gas shortages, and a series of electrical blackouts were rolling across California. The president established the National Energy Policy Development Group and appointed former Halliburton CEO Cheney as its head.

One of the big issues on the table was oil, which accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s energy supply and provided fuel for the vast majority of the country’s transportation – as well as its expansive war machine. And for the first time in history, the United States had become reliant on foreign imports for more than 50 percent of its oil supply.

But rather than lay the groundwork for converting the economy to alternative, renewable sources, the task force’s report, later released by Bush as the “National Energy Policy” report in May 2001, promoted a central goal of “mak[ing] energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy.” In other words, Cheney’s group wanted to find additional sources of oil overseas and ensure U.S. access to that oil – whatever it took.

Documents recently obtained from the task force as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch indicate Cheney and his colleagues had their sights on the black gold under the Iraqi desert well before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In July 2003 the Commerce Department turned over records that included “a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and ‘Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,'” according to Judicial Watch’s press release. The documents were dated March 2001.

“The major news media are beginning to pay much closer attention to the links between political turmoil abroad and the economies of oil at home,” Michael Klare wrote in Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories. “Still, the media remains reluctant to explain the close link between the energy policies of the Bush Administration and U.S. military strategy.”

Sources: “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields,” Judicial Watch staff, Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003. “Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World’s Oil,” Michael Klare, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 2004.


As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, completed its first year, Ellen Mariani and her attorney held a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to announce her own startling conclusions. Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when terrorists flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center’s south tower, had come to believe top American officials – including Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others – had foreknowledge of the attacks, purposefully failed to prevent them and had since taken pains to cover up the truth.

The administration, she argues in a federal lawsuit, allowed 9/11 to happen so Bush and company could launch their seemingly endless, global “war on terror” for their own personal and financial gain. The suit uses the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act – a law created to go after the Mafia – to charge the nation’s leaders with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.

Her lawyer, Philip J. Berg, a former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, filed a 62-page complaint that included 40 pages of evidence. “Compelling evidence … will be presented in this case through discovery, subpoena power by this Court and testimony at trial,” he wrote in a press release sent to 3,000 journalists announcing the lawsuit and a press conference on the court steps that day.

The case has the potential to uncover and publicize critical documents and testimony about the Bush administration’s handling of the Qaeda threat and its aftermath. But only Fox News showed up to the press conference, and it never ran anything on the topic.

Sources: “9/11 Victim’s Wife Files RICO Case Against GW Bush,” Philip Berg, Scoop (scoop.co.nz), Nov. 26, 2003. “Widow’s Bush Treason Suit Vanishes,” W. David Kubiak, Scoop, Dec. 3, 2003.


If you thought nuclear energy was dead, think again: The Bush administration’s energy bill – yet another product of Cheney’s industry-stacked energy task force – provides taxpayer cash for companies that build new nukes.

A secretly crafted provision of the bill, released late on a Saturday night in November, offers energy companies as much as $7.5 billion in tax credits to build six nuclear reactors. This is in addition to almost $4 billion set aside for other nuclear energy programs.

“Nuclear power already has had 50 years of subsidy totaling over $140 billion,” Nuclear Information and Resource Service’s Cindy Folkers reported.

The administration also removed terrorism protection provisions included in the House version of the bill and reversed a previous ban on the export of enriched uranium.

The press has been “woefully silent on the bill’s nuclear provisions,” Folkers and Michael Mariotte wrote in their update for Project Censored’s new book, Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories. And while both Democrats and Republicans managed to defeat the version of the bill NIRS warned about last fall, supporters – particularly Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. – are still trying to push those provisions through, in some cases as riders on other bills. Estimates on the amount of tax credits being considered have since risen to “as much as $15 or even $19 billion.”

Sources: “Nuclear Energy Would Get $7.5 Billion in Tax Subsidies, U.S. Taxpayers Would Fund Nuclear Monitor Relapse if Energy Bill Passes,” Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Nov. 17, 2003. “U.S. Senate Passes Pro-Nuclear Energy Bill,” Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte, WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor, Aug. 22, 2003.

Welcome to 1980

September 2, 2004 at 9:06 pm
Contributed by:


An alert reader sent this in last night, and highlighted her favorite parts. It’s Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Democratic Convention of 1980. I (sorta) remember that speech, his last great speech before losing to Ronald Reagan. What’s worthy about it today is that it’s stunningly accurate and applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Chillingly so. The Republican aims are the same, and their tactics are the same. Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House; Reagan had them torn down because he didn’t like the way they looked.

Tonight the Republicans trot out their biggest guns, and Bush makes his case for another term. So far, the convention has been utterly devoid of any talk about energy policy. The Progress Report’s analysis of the convention last night did a great job of reviewing the many hyprocrisies and flat-out lies that it included, and did this word count on Cheney’s speech, which of itself offers a good profile of the convention as a whole:

In a 2,800-word speech, Cheney devoted just 50 words of his speech to health care, 92 to the economy and 102 to education. There was no mention of energy policy, trade or the environment. Even Iraq, undoubtedly the focus of Cheney’s term in office, merited just 34 words. Number of words Cheney devoted to personally attacking and distorting the record of John Kerry: 671.

Contrast that with Carter’s speech in 1980, which was completely about policy. (Maybe that’s why Reagan beat him with happy talk.)

I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this election is a defining moment in the history of Man. By the time of the next election in 2008, we will have reached the global peak of oil production and we will be beginning our descent to a post-carbon world. If the Republicans win this election, with their hydrocarbon-based energy policy and their illegitimate wars of hegemony against oil-producing nations, we are sunk. As goes the U.S. with its energy policy, so will go the world. The party who wins will determine whether we have a chance to use our precious little remaining time and energy to execute a rapid transition to energy effiency and renewable generation, or whether we will squander it while denying scientific fact and maximizing profits for the energy companies. Literally, everything is on the line here.

As we wrap up a week of listening to the GOP carrying on about 9-11 and their endless war on “terror,” while the elephant of energy policy makes itself comfortable in the living room, Carter’s warnings and assessment of the world in 1980 are a good jolt back to reality.

Of course we’re at a different point with energy now than we were 24 years ago. Increasing domestic drilling won’t help us out of this mess any more–it’s but a drop in the bucket. And we know that increased coal use has cost us dearly in damage to our health and the environment. But Carter was generally pointing us in the right direction: energy independence. If we had only used the last 24 years to keep going in that direction, we’d be in a very different place today. Indeed, in all likelihood, 9-11 would have never even happened.

Thanks to the alert reader for digging this up and highlighting the best parts.


Selected Resources: An Informal
Reference Guide
  |  Presidents

in an address to the Democratic National Convention
accepting its nomination for President
August 11, 1980 in New York

Fritz and I will mount a campaign that defines the real issues, a campaign
that responds to the intelligence of the American people, a campaign that talks
sense. And we’re going to beat the Republicans in November.

We’ll win because we are the party of a great President who knew how to get
reelected–Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we are the party of a courageous
fighter who knew how to give ‘em hell–Harry Truman. And as Truman said, he just
told the truth and they thought it was hell. And we’re the party of a gallant
man of spirit–John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And we’re the party of a great leader of
compassion–Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have
been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in
history–Hubert Horatio Hornblower–Humphrey. I have appreciated what this
convention has said about Senator Humphrey, a great man who epitomized the
spirit of the Democratic Party. And I would like to say that we are also
theparty of Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Edward Kennedy.

I’d like to say a personal word to Senator Kennedy. Ted, you’re a tough
competitor and a superb campaigner, and I can attest to that. Your speech before
this convention was a magnificent statement of what the Democratic Party is and
what it means to the people of this country and why a Democratic victory is so
important this year. I reach out to you tonight, and I reach out to all those
who supported you in your valiant and passionate campaign. Ted, your party needs
and I need you. And I need your idealism and your dedication working for us.
There is no doubt that even greater service lies ahead of you, and we are
grateful to you and to have your strong partnership now in a larger cause to
which your own life has been dedicated.

I thank you for your support; we’ll make great partners this fall in whipping
the Republicans. We are Democrats and we’ve had our differences, but we share a
bright vision of America’s future–a vision of a good life for all our people, a
vision of a secure nation, a just society, a peaceful world, a strong
America–confident and proud and united. And we have a memory of
Franklin Roosevelt, 40 years ago, when he said that there are times in our
history when concerns over our personal lives are overshadowed by our concern
over “what will happen to the county we have known.” This is such a time, and I
can tell you that the choice to be made this year can transform our own personal
lives and the life of our country as well.

During the last Presidential campaign, I crisscrossed this country and I
listened to thousands and thousands of people-housewives and farmers, teachers
and small business leaders, workers and students, the elderly and the poor,
people of every race and every background and every walk of life. It was a
powerful experience–a total immersion in the human reality of America.

And I have now had another kind of total immersion–being President of the
United States of America. Let me talk for a moment about what that job is like
and what I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that only the most complex and
difficult task comes before me in the Oval Office. No easy answers are found
there, because no easy questions come there.

I’ve learned that for a President, experience is the best guide to the right
decisions. I’m wiser tonight than I was 4 years ago. And I have learned that the
Presidency is a place of compassion. My own heart is burdened for the troubled
Americans. The poor and the jobless and the afflicted-they’ve become part of me.
My thoughts and my prayers for our hostages in Iran are as though they were my
own sons and daughters.

The life of every human being on Earth can depend on the experience
and judgment and vigilance of the person in the Oval Office. The President’s
power for building and his power for destruction are awesome. And the power’s
greatest exactly where the stakes are highest–in matters of war and peace.

And I’ve learned something else, something that I have come to see with
extraordinary clarity: Above all, I must look ahead, because the President of
the United States is the steward of the Nation’s destiny. He must protect our
children and the children they will have and the children of generations to
follow. He must speak and act for them. That is his burden and his glory.

And that is why a President cannot yield to the shortsighted demands, no
matter how rich or powerful the special interests might be that make those
demands. And that’s why the President cannot bend to the passions of the moment,
however popular they might be. That’s why the President must sometimes ask for
sacrifice when his listeners would rather hear the promise of comfort.

The President is a servant of today, but his true constituency is the
. That’s why the election of 1980 is so important.

Some have said it makes no difference who wins this election. They are wrong.
This election is a stark choice between two men, two parties, two sharply
different pictures of what America is and what the world is, but it’s more than
that–it’s a choice between two futures.

The year 2000 is just less than 20 years away, just four Presidential
elections after this one. Children born this year will come of age in the 21st
century. The time to shape the world of the year 2000 is now. The decisions of
the next few years will set our course, perhaps an irreversible course, and the
most important of all choices will be made by the American people at the polls
less than 3 months from tonight.

The choice could not be more clear nor the consequences more crucial. In one
of the futures we can choose, the future that you and I have been building
together, I see security and justice and peace.

I see a future of economic security-security that will come from
tapping our own great resources of oil and gas, coal and sunlight, and from
building the tools and technology and factories for a revitalized economy based
on jobs and stable prices for everyone.

I see a future of justice–the justice of good jobs, decent health care,
quality education, a full opportunity for all people regardless of color or
language or religion; the simple human justice of equal rights for all men and
for all women, guaranteed equal rights at last under the Constitution of the
United States of America.

And I see a future of peace–a peace born of wisdom and based on a
fairness toward all countries of the world, a peace guaranteed both by American
military strength and by American moral strength as well.

That is the future I want for all people, a future of confidence and hope and
a good life. It’s the future America must choose, and with your help and with
your commitment, it is the future America will choose.

But there is another possible future. In that other future I see
despair–despair of millions who would struggle for equal opportunity and a
better life and struggle alone. And I see surrender–the surrender of our energy
future to the merchants of oil, the surrender of our economic future to a
bizarre program of massive tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor, and
massive inflation for everyone. And I see risk–the risk of international
confrontation, the risk of an uncontrollable, unaffordable, and unwinnable
nuclear arms race.

No one, Democrat or Republican either, consciously seeks such a
future, and I do not claim that my opponent does. But I do question the
disturbing commitments and policies already made by him and by those with him
who have now captured control of the Republican Party. The consequences of those
commitments and policies would drive us down the wrong road. It’s up to all of
us to make sure America rejects this alarming and even perilous destiny.

The only way to build a better future is to start with the realities of the
present. But while we Democrats grapple with the real challenges of a real
world, others talk about a world of tinsel and make-believe.

Let’s look for a moment at their make-believe world.

In their fantasy America, inner-city people and farm workers and
laborers do not exist. Women, like children, are to be seen but not heard. The
problems of working women are simply ignored. The elderly do not need Medicare.
The young do not need more help in getting a better education. Workers do not
require the guarantee of a healthy and a safe place to work. In their fantasy
world, all the complex global changes of the world since World War II have never
happened. In their fantasy America, all problems have simple solutions–simple
and wrong.

It’s a make-believe world, a world of good guys and bad guys, where
some politicians shoot first and ask questions later. No hard choices, no
sacrifice, no tough decisions–it sounds too good to be true, and it is.

The path of fantasy leads to irresponsibility. The path of reality
leads to hope and peace. The two paths could not be more different, nor could
the futures to which they lead. Let’s take a hard look at the consequences of
our choice.

You and I have been working toward a more secure future by rebuilding our
military strength–steadily, carefully, and responsibly. The Republicans talk
about military strength, but they were in office for 8 out of the last 11 years,
and in the face of a growing Soviet threat they steadily cut real defense
spending by more than a third.

We’ve reversed the Republican decline in defense. Every year since I’ve been
President we’ve had real increases in our commitment to a stronger Nation,
increases which are prudent and rational.  There is no doubt that the
United States of America can meet a threat from the Soviet Union. Our modernized
strategic forces, a revitalized NATO, the Trident submarine, the Cruise missile,
the Rapid Deployment Force–all these guarantee that we will never be second to
any nation. Deeds, not words; fact, not fiction. We must and we will continue to
build our own defenses. We must and we will continue to seek balanced reductions
in nuclear arms.

The new leaders of the Republican Party, in order to close the gap between
their rhetoric and their record, have now promised to launch an all-out nuclear
arms race. This would negate any further effort to negotiate a strategic arms
limitation agreement. There can be no winners in such an arms race, and all the
people of the Earth can be the losers.

The Republican nominee advocates abandoning arms control policies which have
been important and supported by every Democratic President since Harry, Truman,
and also by every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. This radical
and irresponsible course would threaten our security and could put the whole
world in peril. You and I must never let this come to pass.

It’s simple to call for a new arms race, but when armed aggression threatens
world peace, tough-sounding talk like that is not enough. A President must act

When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, we moved quickly to take action. I
suspended some grain sales to the Soviet Union; I called for draft registration;
and I joined wholeheartedly with the Congress and with the U.S. Olympic
Committee and led more than 60 other nations in boycotting the big propaganda
show in Russia–the Moscow Olympics.

The Republican leader opposed two of these forceful but peaceful actions, and
he waffled on the third. But when we asked him what he would do about aggression
in Southwest Asia, he suggested blockading Cuba. [Laughter] Even his running
mate wouldn’t go along with that. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the
Russians. He’s not sure if he wants to feed them or play with them or fight with

As I look back at my first term, I’m grateful that we’ve had a country for
the full 4 years of peace. And that’s what we’re going to have for the next 4
years-peace. It’s only common sense that if America is to stay secure
and at peace, we must encourage others to be peaceful as well.

As you know, we’ve helped in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia where we’ve stood firm for
racial justice and democracy. And we have also helped in the Middle East.

Some have criticized the Camp David accords and they’ve criticized some
delays in the implementation of the Middle East peace treaty. Well, before I
became President there was no Camp David accords and there was no Middle East
peace treaty. Before Camp David, Israel and Egypt were poised across barbed
wire, confronting each other with guns and tanks and planes. But afterward, they
talked face-to-face with each other across a peace table, and they also
communicated through their own Ambassadors in Cairo and Tel Aviv. Now that’s the
kind of future we’re offering–of peace to the Middle East if the Democrats are
reelected in the fall.

I am very proud that nearly half the aid that our country has ever given to
Israel in the 32 years of her existence has come during my administration.
Unlike our Republican predecessors, we have never stopped nor slowed that aid to
Israel. And as long as I am President, we will never do so. Our
commitment is clear: security and peace for Israel; peace for all the peoples of
the Middle East.

But if the world is to have a future of freedom as well as peace,
America must continue to defend human rights.

Now listen to this: The new Republican leaders oppose our human rights
policy. They want to scrap it. They seem to think it’s naive for America to
stand up for freedom and democracy. Just what do they think we should stand up

Ask the former political prisoners who now live in freedom if we should
abandon our stand on human rights. Ask the dissidents in the Soviet Union about
our commitment to human rights. Ask the Hungarian Americans, ask the Polish
Americans, listen to Pope John Paul II. Ask those who are suffering for the sake
of justice and liberty around the world. Ask the millions who’ve fled tyranny if
America should stop speaking out for human principles. Ask the American people.
I tell you that as long as I am President, we will hold high the banner of human
rights, and you can depend on it.

Here at home the choice between the two futures is equally important.

In the long run, nothing is more crucial to the future of America
than energy; nothing was so disastrously neglected in the past. Long after the
1973 Arab oil embargo, the Republicans in the White House had still done nothing
to meet the threat to the national security of our Nation. Then, as now, their
policy was dictated by the big oil companies.

We Democrats fought hard to rally our Nation behind a comprehensive
energy policy and a good program, a new foundation for challenging and exciting
progress. Now, after 3 years of struggle, we have that program. The battle to
secure America’s energy future has been fully and finally joined. Americans
‘have cooperated with dramatic results. We’ve reversed decades of dangerous and
growing dependence on foreign oil. We are now importing 20 percent less
oil–that is 1 1/2 million barrels of oil every day less than the day I took

And with our new energy policy now in place, we can discover more,
produce more, create more, and conserve more energy, and we will use American
resources, American technology, and millions of American workers to do it with.

Now, what do the Republicans propose? Basically, their energy program has two
parts. The first part is to get rid of almost everything that we’ve done for the
American public in the last 3 years. They want to reduce or abolish the
synthetic fuels program. They want to slash the solar energy incentives, the
conservation programs, aid to mass transit, aid to elderly Americans to help pay
their fuel bills. They want to eliminate the 55-mile speed limit. And while they
are at it, the Republicans would like to gut the Clean Air Act. They never liked
it to begin with.

That’s one part of their program; the other part is worse. To replace
what we have built, this is what they propose: to destroy the windfall profits
tax and to “unleash” the oil companies and let them solve the energy problem for
us. That’s it. That is it. That’s their whole program. There is no more. Can
this Nation accept such an outrageous program?


THE PRESIDENT. No! We Democrats will fight it every step of the way, and
we’ll begin tomorrow morning with a campaign for reelection in November.

When I took office, I inherited a heavy load of serious economic problems
besides energy, and we’ve met them all head-on. We’ve slashed Government
regulations and put free enterprise back into the airlines, the trucking and the
financial systems of our country, and we’re now doing the same thing for the
railroads. This is the greatest change in the relationship between Government
and business since the New Deal. We’ve increased our exports dramatically. We’ve
reversed the decline in the basic research and development, and we have created
more than 8 million new jobs–the biggest increase in the history of our

But the road is bumpy, and last year’s skyrocketing OPEC price increases have
helped to trigger a worldwide inflation crisis. We took forceful action, and
interest rates have now fallen, the dollar is stable and, although we still have
a battle on our hands, we’re struggling to bring inflation under control.

We are now at the critical point, a turning point in our economic history of
our country. But because we made the hard decisions, because we have guided our
Nation and its economy through a rough but essential period of transition, we’ve
laid the groundwork for a new economic age.

Our economic renewal program for the 1980’s will meet our immediate need for
jobs and attack the very same, long-range problem that caused unemployment and
inflation in the first place. It’ll move America simultaneously towards our five
great economic goals–lower inflation, better productivity, revitalization of
American industry, energy security, and jobs.

It’s time to put all America back to work–but not in make-work, in real
work. And there is real work in modernizing American industries and creating new
industries for America as well. Here are just a few things we’ll rebuild
together and build together:

–new industries to turn our own coal and shale and farm
products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the sun
into heat and electricity for our homes;
–a modern
transportation system of railbeds and ports to make American coal into a
powerful rival of OPEC oil;
–industries that will provide the convenience
of futuristic computer technology and communications to serve millions of
American homes and offices and factories;
–job training for workers
displaced by economic changes;
–new investment pinpointed in regions and
communities where jobs are needed most;
–better mass transit in our
cities and in between cities;
–and a whole new generation of American
jobs to make homes and vehicles and buildings that will house us and move us
in comfort with a lot less energy.

This is important, too: I have no doubt that the ingenuity, and dedication of
the American people can make every single one of these things happen. We are
talking about the United States of America, and those who count this country out
as an economic superpower are going to find out just how wrong they are. We’re
going to share in the exciting enterprise of making the 1980’s a time of growth
for America.

The Republican alternative is the biggest tax giveaway in history. They call
it Reagan-Kemp-Roth; I call it a free lunch that Americans cannot afford. The
Republican tax program offers rebates to the rich, deprivation for the poor, and
fierce inflation for all of us. Their party’s own Vice Presidential nominee said
that Reagan-Kemp-Roth would result in an inflation rate of more than 30 percent.
He called it “voodoo economics”. He suddenly changed his mind toward the end of
the Republican Convention, but he was right the first time.

Along with this gigantic tax cut, the new Republican leaders promise to
protect retirement and health programs and to have massive increases in defense
spending-and they claim they can balance the budget. If they are serious about
these promises, and they say they are, then a close analysis shows that the
entire rest of the Government would have to be abolished, everything from
education to farm programs, from the G.I. bill to the night watchman at the
Lincoln Memorial–and their budget would still be in the red. The only
alternative would be to build more printing presses to print cheap money. Either
way, the American people lose. But the American people will not stand for it.

The Democratic Party has always embodied the hope of our people for justice,
opportunity, and a better life, and we’ve worked in every way possible to
strengthen the American family, to encourage self-reliance, and to follow the
Old Testament admonition: “Defend the poor and the fatherless; give justice to
the afflicted and needy.” We’ve struggled to assure that no child in America
ever goes to bed hungry, that no elderly couple in America has to live in a
substandard home, and that no young person in America is excluded from college
because the family is poor.

But what have the Republicans proposed?–just an attack on everything that
we’ve done in the achievement of social justice and decency that we’ve won in
the last 50 years, ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term. They would
make social security voluntary. They would reverse our progress on the minimum
wage, full employment laws, safety in the work place, and a healthy environment.

Lately, as you know, the Republicans have been quoting Democratic Presidents.
But who can blame them? Would you rather quote Herbert Hoover or Franklin Delano
Roosevelt? Would you rather quote Richard Nixon or John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

The Republicans have always been the party of privilege, but this year their
leaders have gone even further. In their platform, they have repudiated the best
traditions of their own party. Where is the conscience of Lincoln in the party
of Lincoln? What’s become of their traditional Republican commitment to fiscal
responsibility? What’s happened to their commitment to a safe and sane arms

Now, I don’t claim perfection for the Democratic Party. I don’t claim that
every decision that we have made has been right or popular; certainly, they’ve
not all been easy. But I will say this: We’ve been tested under fire. We’ve
neither ducked nor hidden, and we’ve tackled the great central issues of our
time, the historic challenges of peace and energy, which have been ignored for
years. We’ve made tough decisions, and we’ve taken the heat for them. We’ve made
mistakes, and we’ve learned from them. But we have built the foundation now for
a better future.

We’ve done something else, perhaps even more important. In good times and
bad, in the valleys and on the peaks, we’ve told people the truth, the hard
truth, the truth that sometimes hurts.

One truth that we Americans have learned is that our dream has been earned
for progress and for peace. Look what our land has been through within our own
memory–a great depression, a world war, a technological explosion, the civil
rights revolution, the bitterness of Vietnam, the shame of Watergate, the
twilight peace of nuclear terror.

Through each of these momentous experiences we’ve learned the hard way about
the world and about ourselves. But we’ve matured and we’ve grown as a nation and
we’ve grown stronger.

We’ve learned the uses and the limitations of power. We’ve learned the beauty
and responsibility of freedom. We’ve learned the value and the obligation of
justice. And we have learned the necessity of peace.

Some would argue that to master these lessons is somehow to limit our
potential. That is not so. A nation which knows its true strengths, which sees
its true challenges, which understands legitimate constraints, that nation–our
nation–is far stronger than one which takes refuge in wishful thinking or
nostalgia. The Democratic Party–the American people-have understood these
fundamental truths.

All of us can sympathize with the desire for easy answers. There’s often the
temptation to substitute idle dreams for hard reality. The new Republican
leaders are hoping that our Nation will succumb to that temptation this year,
but they profoundly misunderstand and underestimate the character of the
American people.

Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill came to North America and
he said, “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the
oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar
candy.” We Americans have courage. Americans have always been on the cutting
edge of change. We’ve always looked forward with anticipation and confidence.

I still want the same thing that all of you want–a self-reliant
neighborhood, strong families, work for the able-bodied and good medical care
for the sick, opportunity for our youth and dignity for our old, equal rights
and justice for all people. I want teachers eager to explain what a civilization
really is, and I want students to understand their own needs and their own aims,
but also the needs and yearnings of their neighbors.

I want women free to pursue without limit the full life of what they want for

I want our farmers growing crops to feed our Nation and the world, secure in
the knowledge that the family farm will thrive and with a fair return on the
good work they do for all of us.

I want workers to see meaning in the labor they perform and work enough to
guarantee a job for every worker in this country.

And I want the people in business free to pursue with boldness and freedom
new ideas.

And I want minority citizens fully to join the mainstream of American life.
And I want from the bottom of my heart to remove the blight of racial and other
discrimination from the face of our Nation, and I’m determined to do it.

I need for all of you to join me in fulfilling that vision. The
choice, the choice between the two futures, could not be more clear. If we
succumb to a dream world then we’ll wake up to a nightmare. But if we start with
reality and fight to make our dreams a reality, then Americans will have a good
life, a life of meaning and purpose in a nation that’s strong and secure.

The Truth Behind the Republican Convention

September 2, 2004 at 6:04 am
Contributed by:


As the GOP performs its dog and pony show for the nation this week, one must wonder how much of America is actually going to fall for their charade.

“As the Republican convention bears down upon us we are reminded of the age old adage – never judge a book by its cover. A four day festival of moderation is about to launch in New York City, the most “red state” destination in America, and the conservative base that President Bush has pandered to has been asked to exit stage right – off the radar screen, but not out of control. We will not see the real decision makers on television. Like the Great and Powerful Oz, GOP convention planners are hoping that the American people will be so fixated by the image presented on stage that they will never think to look at the right-wing forces behind the curtain, pulling the levers of power.”

- Ann Lewis

Former White House Communications Director and current Director of the Democratic National Committee Women’s Vote Center.

So true. I watched a short summary of the Monday convention proceedings on Fox News. It showed me a GOP I have never, ever seen before. Shot after shot of blacks, hispanics, Log Cabin gays, and women. This is the GOP!?

Where were the hard-right evangelicals? As Truthout’s managing editor Scott Galindez observed:

Despite being ushered to the sidelines during the GOP Convention, evangelicals believe that they, not the moderates on-stage in New York, stand to benefit the most from a second Bush term. According to the Christian Coalition president Roberta Combs, as evangelicals, she says, “We still own the president.”

“We will not see any speakers from ENRON or El Paso Energy who crafted the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy. We will not see any speakers from Halliburton or the Carlyle Group who have become the beneficiaries of the administration’s ‘War on Terror.'”

Where were the racists who run the halls of Congress? They allowed one, Zell Miller, flip flopper nonpareil, to take the stage, but now he’s all dressed up as a Bushy. Today’s Progress Report scooped it:

“Republicans sold us out with a generation of trickle-down economics that blew the deficit sky-high, drove poverty through the roof, and squeezed the middle class like a lemon at a county fair. They gave themselves the goldmine, and they gave the rest of us the shaft.”

- Zell Miller, 2/25/96


“I want to be doing everything I can to help President Bush be re-elected, and Dick Cheney. I think they’re doing a superb job.”

- Zell Miller, 5/15/04


Speaking of Kerry: “one of this nation’s authentic heroes” who “has worked to strengthen our military”

–Zell Miller, 2001

“This is a man that voted against the weapons system that we’re using to fight the war on terror. This is a man who voted against increases in intelligence funding.”

Zell Miller, Aug. 1, 2004

Again there’s the truth, and the lie. The Republicans think they’ve really pulled one over on you to present Zell Miller as a Democrat. Not so:

“Zell gets divorced, a loyal Democrat no more. The Democratic Party of Chatham County, Georgia, does hereby divorce former Democratic Governor Zell Miller. Statements and actions of the formerly-Democratic U.S. senator have irretrievably broken the bonds that formerly existed between us and we view any previous ties to Miller as null and void.”

Where were those who support Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage? Why didn’t Cheney mention that he believes it’s an issue for the states to decide? (And am I the only one who hears the chants “Four more years!” and swears that some of them are actually yelling “No more queers!”?)

I wonder how many of those delegates have actually read the Republican Party Platform? If you’re planning to vote for Bush, have you? Are you aware that the platform will:

  • Take away a woman’s right to choose.
  • Eliminate environmental protections.
  • Write discrimination into the Constitution.
  • End affirmative action.
  • Remove fundamental Constitutional protections.

Cheney’s speech at the convention brays in the background as I type. I hear the crowd chanting “Flip flop! Flip flop! Flip flop!” and am reminded of nothing so much as the sheep in Orwell’s Animal Farm bleating “Four legs good! Two legs baaaaad!”

And here’s another BIG flip flop: After years of denying the reality of global warming, injecting doubt at every turn, and denying and censoring basic science, Bush last week finally acknowledged that it’s real, and that human activities are to blame. See: The Global Warming Flip-Flop

Dubya did another flip-flop so big last week, I’m surprised he didn’t break his back. When asked if the war on terror can be won, he said: “I don’t think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world.”

–George W. Bush, August 28, 2004


“I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror.”

–George W. Bush, July 14, 2004

“One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, ‘Can you ever win the war on terror?’ Of course you can.”

–George W. Bush, April 13, 2004

It’s hard not to hear these things and feel like your intelligence has been insulted. Do they really believe that they can say whatever is convenient at the moment, regardless of its truth, and get away with it? On second thought, I guess they do–it sure worked with the roulette wheel of justifications for going to war against Iraq. Boy, don’t you feel stupid now?

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the ugly smear campaign of the Swift Boat Veterans. Dubya’s team has claimed that there is no direct connection between him and the Texas-based group of good ol’ boys. Isn’t that a bit like saying there’s no direct connection between the left hand and the right? (The direct connections have since been revealed, in detail. See Not So Swift Boat Veterans.)

Here are a few articles that may help to set you straight about the real Republican party and its platform. The best one is a little polemic by Garrison Keillor. I’d call it a must-read.

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

by Garrison Keillor

What You Won’t See at the Republican Convention

by Scott Galindez

Nausea in New York

by William Rivers Pitt

Zig Zag Zell

The Progress Report 9/1/04

President Bush: Flip-Flopper-In-Chief

Progress Report Backgrounder

Don’t be fooled. Underneath the clothing of those sheep bleating “Flip flop!” are wolves. And you, Little Red Riding Voter, are lunch.


NYC on 9-11: They Knew, and We Want Answers

August 30, 2004 at 7:11 pm
Contributed by:


I am very encouraged by this new Zogby poll, showing that a majority of New Yorkers believe that U.S. leaders had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and “consciously failed” to act. They want a real inquiry into what happened, and answers to their very legitmate questions, and they’re not going to settle for the whitewash we’ve been given.

For the sake of the dignity of our country, and out of respect for those who died, I wish the 9-11truth.org group the best of luck in getting to the bottom of what happened that day, and condemn in the strongest possible terms the way that Bush is seeking to use 9-11 as a basis for re-election, in the face of these many unanswered questions. Shame on him. Let him show that he’s really interested in giving America the truth about 9-11, then maybe–maybe–he has a claim to that. But not now.


[Further reading: previous GRL blogs about what really happened on 9-11:

FBI Whistleblower Explodes 9-11 Commission Report

9-11: Bush knew. And did nothing.

Today’s Roundup

You Can’t Handle the Truth

20 Crucial 9/11 Questions

William Rivers Pitt – “The Sins of September 11″

Krugman – Exploiting the Atrocity

Were the Saudis responsible for WTC attacks?

Common misconceptions about 9/11

Poll: 50% of NYC Says U.S. Govt Knew

Zogby International

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, Aug. 30, 2004

Half of New Yorkers Believe U.S. Leaders Had
Foreknowledge of Impending 9/11 Attacks and
“Consciously Failed” To Act;

66% Call For New Probe of Unanswered Questions
by Congress or New York’s Attorney General,
New Zogby International Poll Reveals

(Utica, NY) – On the eve of a Republican National Convention invoking 9/11 symbols, sound bytes and imagery, half (49.3%) of New York City residents and 41% of New York citizens overall say that some of our leaders “knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act,” according to the poll conducted by Zogby International. The poll of New York residents was conducted from Tuesday August 24 through Thursday August 26, 2004. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of +/-3.5.


The poll is the first of its kind conducted in America that surveys attitudes regarding US government complicity in the 9/11 tragedy. Despite the acute legal and political implications of this accusation, nearly 30% of registered Republicans and over 38% of those who described themselves as “very conservative” supported the claim.

The charge found very high support among adults under 30 (62.8%), African-Americans (62.5%), Hispanics (60.1%), Asians (59.4%), and “Born Again” Evangelical Christians (47.9%).

Less than two in five (36%) believe that the 9/11 Commission had “answered all the important questions about what actually happened on September 11th,” and two in three (66%) New Yorkers (and 56.2% overall) called for another full investigation of the “still unanswered questions” by Congress or Elliot Spitzer, New York’s Attorney General. Self-identified “very liberal” New Yorkers supported a new inquiry by a margin of three to one, but so did half (53%) of “very conservative” citizens across the state. The call for a deeper probe was especially strong from Hispanics (75.6%), African-Americans (75.3%) citizens with income from $15-25K (74.3%), women (62%) and Evangelicals (59.9%).

W. David Kubiak, executive director of 911truth.org, the group that commissioned the poll, expressed genuine surprise that New Yorkers’ belief in the administration’s complicity is as high or higher than that seen overseas. “We’re familiar with high levels of 9/11 skepticism abroad where there has been open debate of the evidence for US government complicity. On May 26th the Toronto Star reported a national poll showing that 63% of Canadians are also convinced US leaders had ‘prior knowledge’ of the attacks yet declined to act. There was no US coverage of this startling poll or the facts supporting the Canadians’ conclusions, and there has been virtually no debate on the victim families’ scores of still unanswered questions. I think these numbers show that most New Yorkers are now fed up with the silence, and that politicians trying to exploit 9/11 do so at their peril. The 9/11 case is not closed and New York’s questions are not going away.”

Nicholas Levis of NY 9/11 Truth, an advisor on the poll, agrees, “The 9/11 Commission gave us a plenty of ‘recommendations’, but far more plentiful were the discrepancies, gaps and omissions in their supposedly ‘final’ report. How can proposals based on such deficient findings ever make us safe? We think these poll numbers are basically saying, ‘Wait just a minute. What about the scores of still outstanding questions? What about the unexplained collapses of WTC 7, our air defenses, official accountability, the chain of command on 9/11, the anthrax, insider trading & FBI field probes? There’s so much more to this story that we need to know about.’ When such a huge majority of New Yorkers want a new investigation, it will be interesting to see how quickly Attorney General Spitzer and our legislators respond.” (Contact: nicholas@911truth.org, Tel. 917.295.4929)

SCOPE: The poll covered five areas of related interest: 1) Iraq – do New Yorkers think that our leaders “deliberately misled” us before the war (51.2% do); 2) the 9/11 Commission – did it answer all the “important questions” (only 36% said yes); 3) the inexplicable and largely unreported collapse of the third WTC skyscraper on 9/11 – what was its number (28% of NYC area residents knew); 4) the question on complicity; and 5) how many wanted a new 9/11 probe. All inquiries about questions, responses and demographics should be directed to Zogby International.

SPONSOR: 911truth.org is a coalition of researchers, journalists and victim family members working to expose and resolve the hundreds of critical questions still swirling around 9/11, especially the nearly 400 questions that the Family Steering Committee filed with the 9/11 Commission which they fought to create. Initially welcomed by the commissioners as a “road map” for their inquiry, these queries cut to the heart of 9/11 crimes and accountability. Specifically, they raised the central issues of motive, means and cui bono (who profited?). But the Commission ignored the majority of these questions, opting only to explore system failures, miscommunications and incompetence. The victim families’ most incisive issues remain unaddressed to this day. The Zogby International poll was also cosponsored by Walden Three (walden3.org) and 9/11 Citizens Watch (911citizenswatch.org), a watchdog group which has monitored the Commission since its inception and will release its findings, “The 9/11 Omission Report,” in several weeks.

On September 9th and 11th, 911Truth.org will cosponsor two large successive inquiries in New York, a preliminary 9/11 Citizens Commission hearing and “Confronting the Evidence: 9/11 and the Search for Truth,” a research-focused evidentiary forum. These inquiries will examine many of the 9/11 Commission-shunned questions and discuss preparation of a probable cause complaint demanding a grand jury and criminal investigation from the New York Attorney General. Possible charges range from criminal negligence and gross dereliction of duty to foreknowledge, complicity and subsequent obstruction of justice. For details and developments, see www.911truth.org. For press info, contact Kyle Hence 212-243-7787 kylehence@earthlink.net

Zogby International conducted interviews of 808 adults chosen at random in New York State. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from 8/24/04 through 8/26/04. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, and gender to more accurately reflect the population. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

Republicans Breaking Ranks

August 20, 2004 at 8:10 pm
Contributed by:


Finally, some cooler heads in the Republican party are beginning to stand up and speak out for the truth, putting their loyalty to America before their fealty to Dubya’s throne. And just when I thought the whole GOP had had a lobotomy.

First, a much-circulated column from the VERY conservative Charley Reese of the Orlando
Sentinel. Showing that he still has the capacity for independent thought, and sound reasoning, he concludes that Bush’s extreme policies are very bad indeed for America:

People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display
their stupidity, as I did in the last election, by voting for Bush. Bush
is as far from being a conservative as you can get. Well, he fooled me
once, but he won’t fool me twice.

Next, a stinging rebuke from Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb, a senior member of the International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who calls the invasion of Iraq a mistake, and “a dangerous, costly mess.”

Kudos to these right-wingers for having the guts to call it like it is, and speak up for true conservatism. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of this sort of thing before November.


Vote for a Man, Not a Puppet

by Charley Reese
Americans should realize that if they vote for President Bush’s re-election, they are really voting for the architects of war – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of that cabal of neoconservative ideologues and their corporate backers.

I have sadly come to the conclusion that President Bush is merely a frontman, an empty suit, who is manipulated by the people in his administration. Bush has the most dangerously simplistic view of the world of any president in my memory.

It’s no wonder the president avoids press conferences like the plague. Take away his cue cards and he can barely talk. Americans should be embarrassed that an Arab king (Abdullah of Jordan) spoke more fluently and articulately in English than our own president at their joint press conference recently.

John Kerry is at least an educated man, well-read, who knows how to think and who knows that the world is a great deal more complex than Bush’s comic-book world of American heroes and foreign evildoers. It’s unfortunate that in our poorly educated country, Kerry’s very intelligence and refusal to adopt simplistic slogans might doom his presidential election efforts.

But Thomas Jefferson said it well, as he did so often, when he observed that people who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be.

People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display their stupidity, as I did in the last election, by voting for Bush. Bush is as far from being a conservative as you can get. Well, he fooled me once, but he won’t fool me twice.

It is not at all conservative to balloon government spending, to vastly increase the power of government, to show contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law, or to tell people that foreign outsourcing of American jobs is good for them, that giant fiscal and trade deficits don’t matter, and that people should not know what their government is doing. Bush is the most prone-to-classify, the most secretive president in the 20th century. His administration leans dangerously toward the authoritarian.

It’s no wonder that the Justice Department has convicted a few Arab-Americans of supporting terrorism. What would you do if you found yourself arrested and a federal prosecutor whispers in your ear that either you can plea-bargain this or the president will designate you an enemy combatant and you’ll be held incommunicado for the duration?

This election really is important, not only for domestic reasons, but because Bush’s foreign policy has been a dangerous disaster. He’s almost restarted the Cold War with Russia and the nuclear arms race. America is not only hated in the Middle East, but it has few friends anywhere in the world thanks to the arrogance and ineptness of the Bush administration. Don’t forget, a scientific poll of Europeans found us, Israel, North Korea and Iran as the greatest threats to world peace.

I will swallow a lot of petty policy differences with Kerry to get a man in the White House with brains enough not to blow up the world and us with it. Go to Kerry’s Web site and read some of the magazine profiles on him. You’ll find that there is a great deal more to Kerry than the GOP attack dogs would have you believe.

Besides, it would be fun to have a president who plays hockey, windsurfs, ride motorcycles, plays the guitar, writes poetry and speaks French. It would be good to have a man in the White House who has killed people face to face. Killing people has a sobering effect on a man and dispels all illusions about war.

May 17, 2004

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969–71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Charley Reese Archives

Intelligence vice chairman calls war unjustified

The Associated Press

Aug. 19, 2004

LINCOLN, Neb. – A top Republican lawmaker has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes that the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and that the situation there has deteriorated into “a dangerous, costly mess.”

“I’ve reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action,” Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., wrote in a letter to his constituents.

“Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action,” he said.

Bereuter, 65, is a senior member of the International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become president of the Asia Foundation effective Sept. 1.

The letter, which Bereuter (pronounced BEE-writer) sent to constituents who have contacted him about the war, was reported Wednesday by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Signs of GOP slippage
In 2002, Bereuter spoke out in support of a House resolution authorizing President Bush to go to war. Bush has continued to argue that the war was justified because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein represented a threat to the United States, his neighbors and the people of Iraq.

Most Republicans and top administration officials say the war was justified even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

However, after a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded in early July that intelligence agencies had provided false assessments of the Iraqi threat before the war, the panel’s Republican chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, said Congress might not have approved the Iraq war had lawmakers known the truth.

Roberts said that without an immediate threat that Saddam had and was trying to get weapons of mass destruction, military action against Iraq still could have been justified on humanitarian grounds but that the battle plan might have been different from a full-scale invasion.

Bereuter sees other problems
Bereuter said that in addition to “a massive failure or misinterpretation of intelligence,” the Bush administration made several other errors in going to war.

“From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force,” he said. “Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world.

Bereuter said that as a result of the war, “our country’s reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened.”

Bereuter declined to answer questions Wednesday about the letter. His spokesman, Alan Feyerherm, said Bereuter feels the letter speaks for itself.

American Fascism: \"It Can Happen Here\"

August 12, 2004 at 4:00 pm
Contributed by:


I know from past experience that when parallels are noted between fascism and the extreme right of American politics, lots of conservatives cry foul, and lots of lefties nod their heads knowingly.

But how many of us know what “fascism” really means?

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

“Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) notes, fascism/corporatism is ‘an attempt to create a “modern” version of feudalism by merging the “corporate” interests with those of the state.'”

Sound familiar?

It’s not enough to know about Hitler, the modern poster boy of fascism. There is more to it, and if one really looks at the tactics and beliefs of fascism from history, the parallels with our current administration are startling indeed.

In 1944, writing about the rise of fascism in America, Vice President Henry Wallace wrote:

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

That comment stands as true today as it did in 1944. My first impulse when I started reading this article was to throw it out. But by the time I got to the end, I decided it was worthy of broader circulation. This is a history lesson none of us–especially true conservatives–can afford to miss.


The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: “It Can Happen Here”

by Thom Hartmann

Published on Monday, July 19, 2004 by CommonDreams.org

The Republican National Committee has recently removed from the top-level pages of their website an advertisement interspersing Hitler’s face with those of John Kerry and other prominent Democrats. This little-heralded step has freed former Enron lobbyist and current RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to resume his attacks on Americans who believe some provisions of Bush’s PATRIOT Act, his detention of American citizens without charges, his willingness to let corporations write legislation, and the so-called “Free Speech Zones” around his public appearances are all steps on the road to American fascism.

The RNC’s feeble attempt to equate Hitler and Democrats was short-lived, but it brings to mind the first American Vice President to point out the “American fascists” among us.

Although most Americans remember that Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President when Roosevelt died in 1945 (making Truman President), Roosevelt had two previous Vice Presidents – John N. Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945). In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following
questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist” – the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled “The Doctrine of Fascism” he wrote, “If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” But not a government of, by, and for We The People – instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.

In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the “Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni” – the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like Tom DeLay and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.

Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America:

” If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”

Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace’s view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. “American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information…”

Noting that, “Fascism is a worldwide disease,” Wallace further suggest that fascism’s “greatest threat to the United States will come after the war” and will manifest “within the United States itself.”

In Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician – Buzz Windrip – runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new “patriotic” laws that make it illegal to criticize the President.

As Lewis noted in his novel, “the President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: ‘There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don’t belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!’ The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy.” And, President “Windrip’s partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the ‘Corpos,’ which nickname was generally used.”

Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book “It Can’t Happen Here.” And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace’s thinking when he

” Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after ‘the present unpleasantness’ ceases.”

Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) notes, fascism/corporatism is “an attempt to create a ‘modern’ version of feudalism by merging the ‘corporate’ interests with those of the state.”

Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as “rule by the rich.”

Thus, the neo-feudal/fascistic rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, an irony not lost on author Thomas Frank, who notes in his new book “What’s The Matter With Kansas” that, “You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly any Main Street in middle America – ‘going out of business’ signs side by side with placards supporting George W. Bush.”

The businesses “going out of business” are, in fascist administrations, usually those of locally owned small and medium-sized companies. As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.” He added, “Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.”

But American fascists who would want former CEOs as President, Vice President, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don’t generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a “them” to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.

In a comment prescient of George W. Bush’s recent suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays, Wallace

” The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination…”

But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation’s largest corporations – who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media – they could promote their lies with ease.

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Finally, Wallace said, “The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. … Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must…develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.”

This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this
day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of “Trust Buster” Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).

As Wallace’s President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party’s renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia, “…out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties…. It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction…. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man….”

Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core: “These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”

But, he thundered in that speech, “Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!”

In 2004, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself “compassionate conservatism.” The RNC’s behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.”

It’s particularly ironic that the CEOs and lobbyists who run the Republican National Committee would have chosen to put Hitler’s fascist face into one of their campaign commercials, just before they launched a national campaign against gays and while they continue to arrest people who wear anti-Bush T-shirts in public places.

President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace’s warnings have come full circle. Which is why it’s so critical that this November we join together at the ballot box to stop this most recent incarnation of feudal fascism from seizing complete control of our nation.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk radio show. www.thomhartmann.com. His most recent books are “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” “Unequal
Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights
,” and “We The People: A Call To Take Back America.” His new book, “What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy,” based on four years of research in Jefferson’s personal letters, begins shipping this week from Random House/Harmony.

Krugman – O\’Rielly \"Shootout\"

August 10, 2004 at 11:57 pm
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I hope you caught Paul Krugman and Bill O’Rielly duking it out on Tim Russert’s show last night. It didn’t really come to blows, but I think if Krugman hadn’t continually taken the high ground, ignored O’Rielly’s personal attacks and partisan barbs, and tried to steer the debate back to substantive issues, it very well might have.

If you didn’t catch it, then here’s the transcript. I doubt it will communicate the tension in that exchange, but it’s interesting stuff. I wish other Democratic talking heads had the mettle to challenge the right’s lies and dirty tactics the way that Krugman did. O’Rielly showed himself, more than ever, to be an uninformed, common playground bully.

Transcript of Krugman – O’Rielly “Shootout”


William Rivers Pitt: The Writing on the Latrine Walls

August 9, 2004 at 5:04 pm
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Even though I just wrote yet another big blog entry on Peak Oil, I couldn’t let today pass without pointing your attention to today’s article by Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt.

Pitt writes about his discussions with a Reuters photographer who just returned from Iraq. The story that he pieces together confirms what most Americans already believe, and what this blog has asserted for nearly three years: that the war on Iraq is, and always was, about control over Middle East oil. And the Halliburton contracts in Iraq are too: the billions the US has given to Halliburton aren’t being used to rebuild Iraq so much as they are to build US military bases. And the military convoys are mainly occupied protecting convoys of oil and oil field equipment.

There are some startlingly frank quotes in this article. You won’t see any of this on CNN. Read it.


The Writing on the Latrine Walls

William Rivers Pitt


    I sat with a photographer from Reuters who had just returned from a six-month tour of Iraq. He had been tagging along with the Kellogg Brown & Root operation, subsidiary of Halliburton, and saw everything there was to see. He went from new military base to new military base, from the oil work in the north and back to the south, observing how busy were the contactors for Halliburton.

    “I feel like I compromised every one of my principles by even being over there,” he told me after the story had been spun out a bit. His eyes, which had seen too many things through the lens of his camera, were haunted.

    It was two years ago that talk about invading Iraq began to circulate. Reasons for the invasion were bandied about – they had weapons of mass destruction, they had a hand in September 11, they will welcome us as liberators – but it wasn’t until the Project for the New American Century got dragged into the discussion that an understanding of the true motives behind all this became apparent.

    The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC for short, is just another right-wing think tank, really. One cannot swing one’s dead cat by the tail in Washington D.C. without smacking some prehensile gnome, pained by the sunlight, scuttling back to its right-wing think tank cubicle. These organizations are all over the place. What makes PNAC different from all the others?

    The membership roll call, for one thing:

  • Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States, former CEO of Halliburton;
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense;
  • Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense;
  • Elliot Abrams, National Security Council;
  • John Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security;
  • I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s top National Security assistant;

    Quite a roster.

    These people didn’t enjoy those fancy titles in 2000, when the PNAC manifesto ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ (Adobe document) was first published. Before 2000, they were just a bunch of power players who had been shoved out of the government in 1993. In the time that passed between Clinton and those hanging chads, these people got together in PNAC and laid out a blueprint. ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ was the ultimate result, and it is a doozy of a document. 2000 became 2001, and the PNAC boys – Cheney and Rumsfeld specifically – suddenly had the fancy titles and a chance to swing some weight.

    ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ became the roadmap for foreign policy decisions made in the White House and the Pentagon; PNAC had the Vice President’s office in one building, and the Defense Secretary’s office in the other. Attacking Iraq was central to that roadmap from the beginning. When former Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke accused the Bush administration of focusing on Iraq to the detriment of addressing legitimate threats, he was essentially denouncing them for using the attacks of September 11 as an excuse to execute the PNAC blueprint.

    Iraq, you see, has been on the PNAC menu for almost ten years.

    The goals codified in ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses,’ the manifesto, can be boiled down to a few sentences: The invasion and occupation of Iraq, for reasons that had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein. The building of several permanent military bases in Iraq, the purpose of which are to telegraph force throughout the region. The takeover by Western petroleum corporations of Iraq’s nationalized oil industry. The ultimate destabilization and overthrow of a variety of regimes in the Middle East, friend and foe alike, by military or economic means, or both.

    “Indeed,” it is written on page 14 of ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses,’ “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

    Two years after the talk began, the invasion is completed. There are no weapons of mass destruction, there is no connection to September 11, and the Iraqi people have in no way welcomed us as liberators. The cosmetic rationales for the attack have fallen by the wayside, and all that remains are the PNAC goals, some of which have been achieved in spectacularly profitable fashion.

    The stock in trade of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root is the construction of permanent military bases. The Reuters reporter I spoke to had been to several KBR-built permanent American military bases in his six month tour of Iraq. “That’s where the oil industry money is going,” he told me. “Billions of dollars. Not to infrastructure, not to rebuilding the country, and not to helping the Iraqi people. It’s going to KBR, to build those bases for the military.”

    According to the Center for Public Integrity, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root has made $11,475,541,371 in Iraq as of July 1. So that’s one PNAC goal checked off the list.

    As for the corporate takeover of the Iraqi oil industry, that has become the prime mission of the American soldiers engaged there. Kellogg Brown & Root also does a tidy business in the oil-infrastructure repair market. “The troops aren’t hunting terrorists or building a country,” said the Reuters photographer. “All they do is guard the convoys running north and south. The convoys north are carrying supplies and empty tankers for the oil fields around Mosul and Tikrit. The convoys south bring back what they pull out of the ground up there. That’s where all these kids are getting killed. They get hit with IEDs while guarding these convoys, and all hell breaks loose.”

    That last goal, about overthrowing other regimes in the region, hasn’t been as easy to follow through on as the PNAC boys might have hoped. The Iraqi people are fighting back, and the small-by-comparison force Rumsfeld said would be enough to do the job can’t seem to pacify the country. Perhaps that is because too many troops are dedicated to guarding the oil supply lines. More likely, however, it is because of the sincere belief among the Iraqi people that they have been conquered – not ‘liberated’ but conquered – and their conquerors don’t give a tinker’s damn whether they live or die.

    “The Americans over there have all these terms for people who aren’t Americans,” the Reuters photographer said. “The Iraqi people are called LPs, or ‘Local Personnel.’ They get killed all the time, but it’s like, ‘Some LPs got killed,’ so it isn’t like real people died. Iraqi kids run along the convoys, hoping a soldier will throw them some food or water, and sometimes they get crushed by the trucks. Nothing stops, those are the orders, so some LPs get killed and the convoy keeps rolling. The labels make it easier for them to die. The people are depersonalized. No one cares.”

    “Everyone is an ‘insurgent’ over there,” the photographer told me. “That’s another label with no meaning. Everyone is against the Americans. There is a $250,000 bounty on the head of every Westerner over there, mine too, while I was there. The Americans working the oil industry over there are the dumbest, most racist jackasses I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s the American face on this thing, and the Iraqi people see it.”

    930 American soldiers have died to achieve goals the PNAC boys gamed out before they ever came in with this Bush administration. Well over 10,000 Iraqi civilians have likewise died. Over $200 billion has been spent to do this. Fighting today rages across several sections of Iraq, and the puppet ‘leaders’ installed by U.S. forces are about to drive a final stake into the heart of the liberation rhetoric by declaring nationwide martial law.

    Two enemies of the United States – the nation of Iran and Osama bin Laden – are thrilled with the outcome to date. Saddam Hussein was an enemy to both Iran and bin Laden, and he has been removed. The destabilization and innocent bloodshed bolsters Iran’s standing against the U.S., and sends freshly motivated martyrs into the arms of Osama.

    Yes, the Halliburton contracting in Iraq for military bases and petroleum production is a cash cow for that company. The bases are being built. The oil industry has been privatized. The resulting chaos of the PNAC blueprint, however, has left the entire theater of the war in complete chaos. The Bush administration has insisted all along that this invasion was central to their ‘War on Terror.’ It has, in truth, become a failed experiment in global corporate hegemony writ large, foisted upon us by some men named Cheney and Rumsfeld who thought it would all work out as they had planned it in 2000.

    It hasn’t, except for the profiteering. For all their white papers, for all their carefully-laid plans, for all the power and fancy titles these erstwhile think-tankers managed to gather unto themselves, their works are now blood-crusted dust. They are clearly not as smart as they thought they were. The overall ‘War on Terror’ itself has plenty of examples of these boys not being too swift on the uptake. Iraq is only the largest, and costliest, example.

    The case of Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan is another perfect example. Khan was a mole, deep undercover within the ranks of al Qaeda, who was sending vital data on the terror organization from Pakistan to British and American intelligence. But officials with the Bush administration, desperate to show the American people they were making headway in the terror war, barfed up Khan’s name to the press while bragging about recent arrests. Khan’s position as a mole within al Qaeda was summarily annihilated. The guy we had inside was blown.

    Pretty smart, yes? “The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse,” said Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane’s Defense publications, in a Reuters article on the blown agent. “You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within al Qaeda, when it’s so difficult to get these guys in there in the first place? It goes against all the rules of counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, running agents and so forth. It’s not exactly cloak and dagger undercover work if it’s on the front pages every time there’s a development, is it?”

    This would be the second agent we know of who has been blown by the arrogant stupidity of the Bush administration. The other, of course, was Valerie Plame. Plame was a ‘Non-Official Cover’ agent, or NOC, for the CIA. NOC designates the deepest cover an agent can have. Plame’s deep-cover assignment was to run a network dedicated to tracking any person, nation or group that might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. Because her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had the temerity to accuse the Bush administration of lying in the public prints, the administration blew Plame’s cover as a warning to Wilson and any other whistleblowers who might have thought of coming forward.

    The Bush administration blew Khan’s cover because they wanted to get a soundbite out for the election campaign. They blew Plame out of sheer spite, and out of desperation. The mole we had inside al Qaeda, and an agent we had tracking the movement of weapons of mass destruction, are both finished now because the PNAC boys are watching all their plans go awry, and they don’t quite know what to do about it. That makes them stupid and exceedingly dangerous.

    The soldiers over there are hip to the jive at this point. Michael Hoffman, a Marine corporal in artillery, was part of the original March invasion. Before Hoffman’s unit shipped out, his battery first sergeant addressed all the enlisted men. “Don’t think you’re going to be heroes,” said Hoffman’s sergeant. “You’re not going over there because of weapons of mass destruction. You’re not going there to get rid of Saddam Hussein, or to make Iraq safe for democracy. You’re going there for one reason and one reason alone: Oil.”

    The Reuters photographer I spoke to couldn’t get any soldiers to talk about how they felt when surrounded by their fellow soldiers. “They don’t talk in the ranks, or just about anywhere on base,” he said. “You have to go out to the latrine area, to the Port-O-Potties. For some reason, they talk there. You can read how they really feel – all the anti-Bush stuff, all the wanting to go home – in the writing on the shithouse walls.”

FBI Whistleblower Explodes 9-11 Commission Report

August 6, 2004 at 3:30 pm
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Now that the 9-11 Commission has completed its report, it is abundantly clear that it left the most important questions about 9-11 unanswered. The commission’s ambition was to come up with a unanimous, bipartisan report, and in fulfilling that mission, they failed to address the most glaring questions, failures, and culpabilities in favor of what is essentially a whitewash and a lukewarm set of recommendations for the future–which Bush has failed to endorse, opting instead to pick and choose which recommmendations he will support.

To review these important questions that remain unanswered, see this article by the Philadelphia Daily News: “Why Don’t We Have Answers To These 9/11 Questions?

How could the commission let this happen? How could these obvious smoking guns be ignored? How can the American people settle for this whitewash of the most heinous attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor?

Perhaps a clue can be found in the ongoing story of one courageous whistleblower’s attempt to daylight “a litany of errors and
cover-ups of those errors” within the FBI. The following article is better than most of the ones I’ve seen on the subject, but there is much more to be found if you want to Google it.

If our government really wanted to know the truth about 9-11, wouldn’t it have insisted on a full investigation, and done all that it could to support that investigation? Wouldn’t it have left no stone unturned, and faced unflinchingly every detected failure? Wouldn’t it have thought that America deserved to know what really happened?

Well, it’s clear that our government doesn’t feel that way at all. The Bush team stonewalled the 9-11 Commission the whole way, limiting its time and access to interviewees and documentation, even objecting to its creation. And now we know that the FBI is stonewalling and covering up as well. All we need wait for now is for recently-resigned CIA Director George Tenet to be subpoenaed.

As I said when I posted that Philly article almost one year ago, “No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think you’ll agree that these questions deserve answers. We should tolerate nothing that will keep us from it, and I, for one, would hate to see this turn into another Kennedy assassination mystery. America deserves the truth about 9/11.”

Apparently, the 9-11 Commission, the FBI, and the White House do indeed intend to let it become an unanswered mystery, and to hide the truth from us.

Write your Congressmen. Tell them you won’t accept this whitewash. Demand that the FBI and the White House be held accountable for their actions, and that they put an end to the muzzling of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.


Whistleblower explodes 9-11 Commission Report

By Ritt Goldstein

[Original source unknown]
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own September 11 whistleblower has
done it again, this time taking aim at the 9-11 Commission itself.

Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator who has in effect been silenced by the
bureau and the US Justice Department, said in an open letter to commission
chairman Thomas Kean that the FBI had suffered from a litany of errors and
cover-ups of those errors, which had been reported to the 9-11 Commission by
Edmonds and others, yet the commission report “contains zero information
regarding these systemic problems that led us to our failure in preventing the
[September 11, 2001] terrorist attacks”.

“In your report, there are no references to individuals responsible for
hindering past and current investigations, or those who are willing to
compromise our security and our lives for their career advancement and
security,” wrote Edmonds, a 33-year-old Turkish-American whose services as a
translator were terminated by the FBI after she claimed vast wrongdoing within
the bureau’s translation unit.

Edmonds’ open letter, while skirting around certain issues that she is
prohibited by gag orders from revealing, is chilling in its revelations that,
contrary to public claims by the administration of President George W Bush, the
FBI was in possession months before September 2001 of intelligence that Osama
bin Laden’s terrorist organization was planning a major attack on the United
States, using airplanes as a weapon.

These revelations are not new, though the open letter is remarkable in its
specificity and naming of names. Previously, while being careful not to violate
the legal silencing measures imposed on her by the FBI, the courts and the
Justice Department, she has leveled damning criticisms in the media of her
former employers and what she has termed the Bush administration’s
“anti-transparency, anti-accountability and their corrupt attitudes”.

“But that aside,” she told radio interviewer Jim Hogue in April, “we are not
made of only one branch of government. We are supposed to have a system of
checks and balances. And I am saying, how about the other two branches? And
putting the pressure on our representatives in the Senate and the Congress, and
the court system? They should be counteracting this corruption, but they are
sitting there silent. And they are just an audience, just watching it happen.”

That interview took place before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
upon which the United States issued its final report on the September 11
attacks. Despite hours of testimony to the commission about what she knew of FBI
failures leading up to the attacks, nearly nothing of this was mentioned in the

“While FBI agents from various field offices were desperately seeking leads
and suspects, and completely depending on FBI HQ and its language units to
provide them with needed translated information, hundreds of translators were
being told by their administrative supervisors not to translate and to let the
work pile up,” Edmonds wrote in her letter. “I provided your investigators with
a detailed and specific account of this issue and the names of other witnesses
willing to corroborate this.

“Today, almost three years after [September 11], and more than two years
since this information has been confirmed and made available to our government,
the administrators in charge of language departments of the FBI remain in their
positions and in charge of the information front lines of the FBI’s
counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence efforts. Your report has omitted any
reference to this most serious issue …”

Specific charges made by Edmonds included the case of a Turkish translator,
whom she named, and who “for months … blocked all-important information
related to … semi-legit organizations and the individuals she and her husband
associated with … [The translator] and several FBI targets of investigation
hastily left the United States in 2002, and the case still remains
uninvestigated criminally. Not only does the supervisor facilitating these
criminal conducts remain in a supervisory position, he has been promoted to
supervising Arabic-language units of the FBI’s counter-terrorism and
counter-intelligence investigations.”

Edmonds also spoke of a translator put in charge of sensitive operations who
not only could not speak English well enough to pass FBI proficiency tests, but
he also could not speak the languages he was in charge of translating. Despite
the fact that his case was made public on CBS television’s 60 Minutes, and
“after admitting that [he] was not qualified to perform the task of translating
sensitive intelligence and investigation of terrorist activities, the FBI still
keeps him in charge of translating highly sensitive documents and leads,”
Edmonds revealed.

But while Edmonds’ letter delivered a cascade of specific allegations,
perhaps the most explosive charge she makes concerns information the bureau was
said to have received four months prior to September 2001, information warning
of the September 11 plan. While both President Bush and National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice have repeatedly denied that there was any indication
that airplanes would be used as a terror weapon, Edmonds revealed that in April
2001 the bureau had information that bin Laden was “planning a major terrorist
attack in the United States targeting four to five major cities”; “the attack
was going to involve airplanes”; some of those involved were already “in the
United States”; and the attack would be “in a few months”. Edmonds states that
the information came from “a long-term FBI informant/asset” and that it was sent
to the “special agent in charge of counter-terrorism” in Washington. She also
charges that after September 11 “the agents and translators were told to ‘keep
quiet’ regarding this issue”.

Further to that, she writes, “The Phoenix Memo, received months prior to the
[September 11] attacks, specifically warned FBI HQ of pilot training and their
possible link to terrorist activities against the United States. Four months
prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific
information regarding the ‘use of airplanes’, ‘major US cities as targets’, and
‘Osama bin Laden issuing the order’ …

“All this information went to the same place: FBI Headquarters in Washington,
DC, and the FBI Washington Field Office, in Washington DC. Yet your report
claims that not having a central place where all intelligence could be gathered
as one of the main factors in our intelligence failure. Why did your report
choose to exclude the information regarding the Iranian asset and [translator]
Behrooz Sarshar from its timeline of missed opportunities? Why was this
significant incident not mentioned, despite the public confirmation by the FBI,
witnesses provided to your investigators, and briefings you received directly?
Why did you surprise even [FBI] director [Robert] Mueller by refraining from
asking him questions regarding this significant incident and lapse during your
hearing … ?”

Given the sweeping nature of Edmonds’ knowledge of intelligence failures in
the lead-up to September 11, it is probably not surprising that the US
government has used its legal clout to try to shut her up. In what the July 29
New York Times termed “an unusually broad veil of secrecy”, the Justice
Department ordered the details surrounding Edmonds’ allegations a matter of
“state secrets”. On May 13, Attorney General John Ashcroft had signed an order
forbidding her to testify in a case brought by the families of September 11
victims, invoking rarely used “state secrets” authority. Edmonds was also
broadly prohibited from discussing the facts surrounding her assertions.

It is unclear what personal consequences this latest whistleblowing may have
for Edmonds. But notably, none of her prior revelations have been determined
erroneous; rather, they have increasingly been found accurate.

A July 21 letter from FBI director Mueller to Utah Republican Senator Orrin
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes that an inspector
general’s report found her whistleblowing “a contributing factor in why the FBI
terminated her services”. Mueller’s letter also noted that, based upon the
report’s findings, a new FBI determination to pursue “discipline of FBI
employees” and “additional investigation” of Edmonds’ allegations had yet to be

Mueller’s July 21 letter, of which Asia Times Online obtained a copy, also
pointedly outlined that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “noted that Ms
Edmonds, as a contract employee, did not qualify for ‘whistleblower’

With her open letter to the 9-11 Commission providing what can only be termed
a damning mantra of revelation, on six separate occasions within the text
Edmonds identically questioned how huge budget increases and the creation of an
insulated “intelligence czar” could alleviate “systemic and departmental”

Mueller’s letter to Hatch outlined that the “OIG criticized the FBI’s failure
to adequately pursue Ms Edmonds’ allegations of espionage” regarding the
above-mentioned translator who “hastily left the United States in 2002″.

Again, the OIG’s report is known to have criticized the bureau’s conduct
regarding its pursuit of Edmonds’ claim of ongoing espionage, with Edmonds
presently revealing that “hundreds of pages of top-secret sensitive intelligence
documents” were taken outside the bureau to “unknown recipients” by her
co-worker in question.

Edmonds described the FBI’s perspective upon this as being “that it would not
look good for the bureau if this security breach and espionage case was
investigated and made public”, concurrently citing the blemish that the last FBI
spy scandal had left, that of Robert Hanssen.

Her letter is particularly noteworthy for its specific naming of those
involved in the wrongdoing she cites, and in providing corroboration of her
account, including such by those within the government. Notably, two key members
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Vermont
Democrat Patrick Leahy, had requested the OIG’s investigation of Edmonds’ FBI
allegations in 2002, Grassley terming her “very credible”.

On July 9, the two senators jointly wrote to Ashcroft, Mueller and Justice
Department Inspector General Glenn Fine requesting that the OIG’s pertinent
reports be made publicly available.

The senators’ letter specified three OIG reports: one on Sibel Edmonds,
another on the FBI translation program, and a third upon whether information
“obtained by the FBI and other federal law-enforcement agencies” preceding
September 11 “was not acted upon, or not acted on in the most effective and
efficient manner”. The senators requested that these documents either be
declassified or made available to the public via summary. Asia Times Online has
obtained a copy of this letter in which the senators highlight that they are
seeking “to understand how important clues were overlooked”, and that the
information in question is significant to both the “public interest” and
“congressional oversight”.

Leahy and Grassley emphasized that they “fear that the designation of
information as classified in some cases serves to protect the executive branch
against embarrassing revelations and full accountability”. They also observe
that a failure to provide the OIG’s findings “could damage the public’s
confidence not only in the government’s ability to protect the nation, but also
in the government’s ability to police itself”.

Again, from what has emerged from the classified OIG action, none of Edmonds’
accounts of FBI wrongdoing appear to have been found erroneous.

In what critics of the Bush administration have long seen as a contrast, a
March 22 Washington Post op-ed piece by Condoleezza Rice stated: “Despite what
some have suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing
to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles, though some analysts
speculated that terrorists might hijack planes to try and free US-held
terrorists.” And according to an April interview Edmonds gave to the United
Kingdom’s Independent newspaper, she termed Rice’s claim “an outrageous lie”,
saying, “I saw papers that show the US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with
airplanes,” referring to the April information she has now written of.

Of particular note is that Edmonds did provide several hours of secret
testimony to the 9-11 Commission. Cutting to what she perceives as part of the
US government’s shortcomings, in her present letter Edmonds strongly emphasizes
an “unspoken policy of ‘protecting certain foreign business relations’ …
‘safeguarding certain diplomatic relations'”, as substantively contributing to
the general lack of candor she charges.

On July 22, 2002, Sibel Edmonds launched a civil suit in the US District
Court for the District of Columbia against the Justice Department. The suit
cited an FBI release of information that she was the “subject of a security
review”, that she had been retaliated against by the bureau for her
whistleblowing activity, and that there had been “interference” with her ability
to obtain future employment as well as a wrongful “termination” of her FBI

Asia Times Online has obtained a copy of the court’s recent decision, and in
its presentation of the case’s “Factual Background” – beyond the allegations
Edmonds widely made – it notes that Edmonds asserted that “the safety and
security of the Plaintiff (Edmonds) and her family has been jeopardized and that
a foreign country has targeted Plaintiff’s sister to be interrogated ‘and
taken/arrested by force'”. It also notes that on May 8, 2002, Senator Grassley
wrote to Mueller regarding what he perceived as the gravity of Edmonds’ charges,
urging Mueller to “emphasize to [FBI] officials … that retaliation against
current or former FBI employees is not acceptable, especially when retaliation
endangers a person’s family member”.

On July 6 the court decided Edmonds’ case, finding that “the plaintiff’s case
must be dismissed, albeit with great consternation, in the interests of national
security”, doing so as Ashcroft invoked the seldom-used “state secrets
privilege”, in effect precluding a trial.

(For the full text of Sibel Edmonds’ open letter to 9-11 Commission chairman
Thomas Kean, please click here: http://atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FH05Aa01.html.)

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist based in Stockholm. His work has appeared in broadsheets such as Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Spain’s El Mundo and Denmark’s Politiken, as well as with the Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency.

Bush: \"Keep those motherfuckers away from me\"

August 4, 2004 at 5:49 pm
Contributed by:


Capitol Hill Blue has really been on point lately with its insider reports on Dubya. Guaranteed you will not see any of this in the mainstream press! I think you’ll find some thought-provoking material on their site if you want to poke around there.

Here are two recent posts from them, showing that Bush’s paranoia and melancholy are becoming real matters of concern in the White House. Worth reading. The “Keep those motherfuckers away from me” quote was inspired by some reporters who wanted to question him about his relationship with Ken Lay. Is that the other shoe I hear falling?


Bush Using Drugs to Control Depression, Erratic Behavior


Editor, Capitol Hill Blue

Jul 28, 2004, 08:09

President George W. Bush is taking powerful anti-depressant drugs to control his erratic behavior, depression and paranoia, Capitol Hill Blue has learned.

The prescription drugs, administered by Col. Richard J. Tubb, the White House physician, can impair the President’s mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and his ability to respond to a crisis, administration aides admit privately.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says one aide. “We can’t have him flying off the handle at the slightest provocation but we also need a President who is alert mentally.”

Angry Bush walked away from reporter’s questions.

Tubb prescribed the anti-depressants after a clearly-upset Bush stormed off stage on July 8, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth J. Lay.

“Keep those motherfuckers away from me,” he screamed at an aide backstage. “If you can’t, I’ll find someone who can.”

Bush’s mental stability has become the topic of Washington whispers in recent months. Capitol Hill Blue first reported on June 4 about increasing concern among White House aides over the President’s wide mood swings and obscene outbursts.

Although GOP loyalists dismissed the reports an anti-Bush propaganda, the reports were later confirmed by prominent George Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank in his book Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. Dr. Frank diagnosed the President as a “paranoid meglomaniac” and “untreated alcoholic” whose “lifelong streak of sadism, ranging from childhood pranks (using firecrackers to explode frogs) to insulting journalists, gloating over state executions and pumping his hand gleefully before the bombing of Baghdad” showcase Bush’s instabilities.

“I was really very unsettled by him and I started watching everything he did and reading what he wrote and watching him on videotape. I felt he was disturbed,” Dr. Frank said. “He fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested but not treated.”

Dr. Frank’s conclusions have been praised by other prominent psychiatrists, including Dr. James Grotstein, Professor at UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Irvin Yalom, MD, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University Medical School.

The doctors also worry about the wisdom of giving powerful anti-depressant drugs to a person with a history of chemical dependency. Bush is an admitted alcoholic, although he never sought treatment in a formal program, and stories about his cocaine use as a younger man haunted his campaigns for Texas governor and his first campaign for President.

“President Bush is an untreated alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies,” Dr. Frank adds.

The White House did not return phone calls seeking comment on this article.

Although the exact drugs Bush takes to control his depression and behavior are not known, White House sources say they are “powerful medications” designed to bring his erratic actions under control. While Col. Tubb regularly releases a synopsis of the President’s annual physical, details of the President’s health and any drugs or treatment he may receive are not public record and are guarded zealously by the secretive cadre of aides that surround the President.

Veteran White House watchers say the ability to control information about Bush’s health, either physical or mental, is similar to Ronald Reagan’s second term when aides managed to conceal the President’s increasing memory lapses that signaled the onslaught of Alzheimer’s Disease.

It also brings back memories of Richard Nixon’s final days when the soon-to-resign President wandered the halls and talked to portraits of former Presidents. The stories didn’t emerge until after Nixon left office.

One long-time GOP political consultant who – for obvious reasons – asked not to be identified said he is advising his Republican Congressional candidates to keep their distance from Bush.

“We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes,” he says sadly. “That’s not good for my candidates, it’s not good for the party and it’s certainly not good for the country.”

© Copyright 2004 Capitol Hill Blue

Sullen, Depressed President Retreats Into Private, Paranoid World


Capitol Hill Blue Staff

Jul 29, 2004, 09:08

A sullen President George W. Bush is withdrawing more and more from aides and senior staff, retreating into a private, paranoid world where only the ardent loyalists are welcome.

Cabinet officials, senior White House aides and leaders on Capitol Hill complain privately about the increasing lack of “face time” with the President and campaign advisors are worried the depressed President may not be up to the rigors of a tough re-election campaign.

“Yes, there are concerns,” a top Republican political advisor admitted privately Wednesday. “The George W. Bush we see today is not the same, gregarious, back-slapping President of old. He’s moody, distrustful and withdrawn.”

Bush Walks Alone

Bush’s erratic behavior and sharp mood swings led White House physician Col. Richard J. Tubb to put the President on powerful anti-depressant drugs after he stormed off stage rather than answer reporters’ questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth J. Lay, but White House insiders say the strong, prescription medications seem to increase Bush’s sullen behavior towards those around him.

“This is a President known for his ability to charm people one-on-one,” says a staff member to House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert. “Not any more.”

White House aides say Bush has retreated into a tightly-controlled environment where only top political advisors like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes are allowed. Even White House chief of staff Andrew Card complains he has less and less access to the President.

Among cabinet members, only Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fundamentalist who shares many of Bush’s strict religious convictions, remains part of the inner circle. White House aides call Bush and Ashcroft the “Blue Brothers” because, like the mythical movie characters, “both believe they are on a mission from God.”

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the man most responsible for waging America’s war on terrorism, complains to staff that he gets very little time with the President and gets most of his marching orders lately from Ashcroft. Some on Ridge’s staff gripe privately that Ashcroft is “Bush’s Himmler,” a reference to Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS (the German Police) under Adolph Hitler.

“Too many make the mistake of thinking Dick Cheney is the real power in the Bush administration,” says one senior Homeland Security aide. “They’re wrong. It’s Ashcroft and that is reason enough for all of us to be very, very afraid.”

While Vice President Cheney remains part of Bush’s tight, inner circle, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has fallen out of favor and tells his staff that “no matter what happens in November, I’m outta here.”

White House aides say the West Wing has been overtaken by a “siege mentality,” where phone calls and emails are monitored and everyone is under suspicion for “disloyalty to the crown.”

“I was questioned about an email I sent out on my personal email account from home,” says one staffer. “When I asked how they got access to my personal email account, I was told that when I came to work at the White House I gave up any rights to privacy.”

Another staffer was questioned on why she once dated a registered Democrat.

“He voted for Bush in 2000,” she said, “but that didn’t seem to matter. Mary Matalin is married to James Carville and that’s all right but suddenly my loyalty is questioned because a former boyfriend was a Democrat?” Matalin, a Republican political operative and advisor to the Bush campaign, is the wife of former Bill Clinton political strategist James Carville.

Psychiatrists say the increasing paranoia at the White House is symptomatic of Bush’s “paranoid, delusional personality.”

Dr. Justin Frank, a prominent Washington psychiatrist and author of the book, Bush on the Couch, Inside the Mind of the President, says the President suffers from “character pathology,” including “grandiosity” and “megalomania” – viewing himself, America and God as interchangeable.

Dr. Frank also concludes that Bush’s years of heavy drinking “may have affected his brain function – and his decision to quit drinking without the help of a 12-step programs puts him at a far higher risk of relapse.”

Whatever the cause for the President’s increasing paranoia and delusions, veteran White House watchers see a strong parallel with another Republican president from 30 years ago.

“From what people who work there now tell me, this White House looks more and more like the White House of Richard M. Nixon,” says retired political science professor George Harleigh, who worked in the Nixon White House. “It may be 2004 but it is starting to seem more like 1974 (the year Nixon resigned in disgrace).”

© Copyright 2004 Capitol Hill Blue

Old Glory

July 1, 2004 at 3:57 pm
Contributed by:


Here’s a break from the usual GRL fare: a short (7 min) film by Andy Schocken, about the flag and how it’s used. His summary:

In a post-9/11 world, the United States flag is everywhere. But does this proliferation of the flag dilute its power and impact? Did you know that according to the United States Code, the flag is not to be used in advertising? This serious documentary uses satire to drive home its points about patriotism and the American way.

Watch it here: Old Glory

I thought it was quite good.


Recent Chomsky on Censorship, Terror, and the Middle East

June 30, 2004 at 10:05 am
Contributed by:


Michael Moore’s new movie is making as big a stink off the screen as it is on the screen. The right-wing attack machinery was in full swing to try to characterize him and his message as looney before the movie even hit the theatres. But as the biggest opening documentary of all time, and the biggest movie in America on its opening weekend (even in the “red” states), its message will be heard by those who have ears to hear it. And those who won’t watch it can continue their mindless attacks on it. But the American people are, finally, despite the best efforts of Disney and their big-money stakeholders, going to get a chance to make up their own minds about it.

But this post isn’t about Michael Moore, or his movie. More than enough has already been said about that. This is about self-censorship, and the proper role of the media, and journalism, even documentary filmmaking (or, if you prefer, dissident propaganda).

While Howard Stern wages his one-man battle against censorship, and Moore wages his; while the New York Times admits that it really didn’t do its job in the lead-up to war and censored itself while slavishly parrotting the administration’s lies; and while the fight for control of U.S. media continues to rage (the Supreme Court recently overturned the FCC’s ruling permitting larger mergers of media ownership), one man continues his fight for journalistic truth, now long in the tooth, and that man is Dr. Noam Chomsky.

Aside from being a towering intellectual and resolute dissident, doing the unrewarding hard work for truth in reporting much as Ralph Nader did for consumer safety, Chomsky is a national treasure for his unwavering committment to spin-free comprehension of “terror,” the troubles in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, and other U.S. adventures abroad. It’s that same committment that has earned Chomsky, a Jew, the accusation of being an Anti-Semite. (Just as Richard Perle accused those who dared to question his motivations for fomenting war on Iraq for over a decade now.)

If Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent were required reading for every college freshman in this country, I daresay we’d be a much less foolish nation, and much more savvy about the propaganda that we get every day from the media.

Here are two articles that should give any reader much to think about, and hopefully, encourage a little more critical thought about what passes for the American news. Good stuff.


First, a link to an excerpt from Understanding Power, New York, 2002, pp. 244-248. Want to know why today’s journalists are so cowardly? Well, here’s why. Speak against the machine, and you’ll sacrifice your career.

The Fate of an Honest Intellectual

by Dr. Noam Chomsky

Next, the transcript of an 8-minute interview of Chomsky on BBC2’s Newsnight programme hosted by Jeremy Paxman, the country’s premier
political interviewer. It’s an excellent primer on rhetorical devices and spin techniques, including the “media bleat point,” a meme that I hope will catch on in the general public. Reprinted here for your convenience:

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

June 22, 2004


Media Bleat Points, Herd Traps, Herd Clichés, And Other Exotica

On May 21, BBC2’s Newsnight programme contained an 8-minute interview with Noam Chomsky hosted by Jeremy Paxman, the country’s premier political interviewer.

A Newsnight anchor introduced the interview:

“If George Bush were to be judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Tribunals, he’d be hanged. So too, mind you, would every single American President since the end of the second world war, including Jimmy Carter.

“The suggestion comes from perhaps the most feted liberal intellectual in the world – the American linguist Noam Chomsky. His latest attack on the way his country behaves in the world is called Hegemony or Survival, America’s Quest for Global Dominance.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/3732345.stm)

Chomsky produces ‘attacks’, we are to understand, rather than some of the most outstanding political analyses of our time. ‘Attack’ is a pejorative term suggesting anger which, in turn, suggests biased irrationality. It’s a familiar theme in mainstream reviews of dissident work. Oliver Robinson writes in the Observer:

“Since 11 September, 2001, the appetite for Noam Chomsky’s polemics has rocketed. Hegemony or Survival, an unequivocally incensed, if meandering, exploration…” (Oliver Robinson, The Observer, May 23, 2004)

Again, the sense of a furious attack is used to smear what, in fact, is a calm and meticulous demolition of establishment lies.

In the New York Times, Frank Rich notes of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11:

“Of course, Mr. Moore is being selective in what he chooses to include in his movie; he’s a polemicist, not a journalist..” (Frank Rich, New York Times, May 23, 2004)

The media are currently trying hard to present as established fact the idea that Moore is sloppy and gets his facts wrong. The attempt is approaching a kind of ‘tipping point’ – we call it the Media Bleat Point. If a fraudulent claim is made in sufficient numbers of high-profile media on both sides of the Atlantic, the Bleat Point is passed, the claim becomes ‘true’, and is then repeated in confident chorus by virtually the entire journalistic herd. The Bleat Point was rapidly passed in May of this year after Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror, was sacked by his corporate bosses: ‘Morgan +had+ to go’, the media confidently insisted from their tight huddle.

In a Guardian article in January, Jason Deans wrote of Carlton TV:

“Carlton’s output… has included the award-winning documentary Kelly and Her Sisters [and] John Pilger’s controversial polemic Palestine is Still the Issue…” (Deans, ‘Hewlett quits Carlton’, The Guardian, January 8, 2004)

Kelly and Her Sisters was “award-winning” but Pilger’s documentary was a “controversial polemic”. In fact, Palestine Is Still The Issue was nominated for a BAFTA – an honour in itself. It won a gold award at the Chicago Documentaries Festival, considered the ‘Oscars’ of documentaries, and a Khris Award, another top American prize. The film was praised by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) for the “thoroughness of its research”, and its “integrity” and its “balance” – no mention was made of it being a “polemic”. The “controversial” element was an orchestrated pro-Israel attack, whose premises were completely rejected by the ITC.

Back to the interview:

“Jeremy Paxman met him at the British Museum, where they talked in the Assyrian Galleries. He asked him whether he was suggesting there was nothing new in the so-called Bush Doctrine.”


“Well, it depends. It is recognised to be revolutionary. Henry Kissinger for example described it as a revolutionary new doctrine which tears to shreds the Westphalian System, the 17th century system of International Order, and of course the UN Charter. But nevertheless it has been very widely criticised within the foreign policy elite. But on narrow ground the doctrine is not really new, it’s extreme.”


“What was the United States supposed to do after 9/11? It had been the victim of a grotesque, intentional attack, what was it supposed to do…?”

This is a consistent theme in Paxman’s questioning. In an interview with the anti-war playwright, Arthur Miller, Paxman asked:

“You live in New York City… you must vividly recall what happened on September 11. In the world in which we live now, isn’t some sort of pre-emptive strike the only defensive option available to countries like the United States?” (Newsnight, February 18, 2003)

As Chomsky has pointed out elsewhere, if waging war is a reasonable response to grotesque, intentional attacks, what does that imply for victims of Western aggression in Cuba, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places? Are we to understand that they, also, are entitled to launch massive military strikes against their attackers? In his book 9-11, Chomsky discussed Britain’s options when IRA bombs were exploding in London:

“One choice would have been to send the RAF to bomb the source of their finances, places like Boston, or to infiltrate commandos to capture those suspected of involvement in such financing and kill them or spirit them to London to face trial.” (Chomsky, 9-11, Seven Stories Press, 2001)

Everyone understands that this would have been lunacy, and yet it is considered perfectly reasonable in the case of Afghanistan.


“Why pick 9/11? Why not pick 1993. Actually the fact that the terrorist act succeeded on September 11 did not alter the risk analysis. In 1993, similar groups, US trained Jihadis, came very close to blowing up the World Trade Centre. With better planning, they probably would have killed tens of thousands of people. Since then it was known that this is very likely. In fact right through the 90’s there was technical literature predicting it, and we know what to do. What you do is police work. Police work is the way to stop terrorist acts and it succeeded.”


“But you are suggesting the United States in that sense is the author of its own nemesis.”

The media delight in trying to lure dissidents into what we call Media Herd Traps. A Herd Trap is designed to press audience and media buttons – it is a position that is accepted by the mainstream as outrageous, irresponsible and beyond the pale. If a dissident can be lured into one of these traps, it is understood that the interviewer (and viewer) may reasonably reject the interviewee as outrageous and irresponsible.

One such Herd Trap is the idea that the United States is ‘to blame’ for September 11 – its policies, not al-Qaeda terrorism, were the prime cause of the atrocity. Doubtless some on the left do hold this view, and it is used by mainstream journalists to assert that dissidents are ‘self-hating Americans’ who blame everything on America and forever side with America’s enemies.

Interestingly, in this case, Chomsky had said nothing of the sort. He had merely noted that the United States had established and trained al-Qaeda groups to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is recognised by specialists in the field of international affairs and terrorism that this empowered terrorists keen to strike at the United States. This is not to suggest that the United States was the author of September 11 – a very different view.


“Well, first of all this is not my opinion. It’s the opinion of just about every specialist on terrorism. Take a look, say, at Jason Burke’s recent book on al-Qaeda, which is just the best book there is. He runs through the record of how each act of violence has increased recruitment financing mobilisation. What he says is, I’m quoting him, that ‘each act of violence is a small victory for Bin Laden.’”


“But why do you imagine George Bush behaves like this?”

This question contained the first of Paxman’s Media Herd Clichés – a banal idea mindlessly repeated by the media – there were several over the course of the 8-minute interview. In this case, the implicit idea is that leaders are primarily responsible for formulating and directing policy. Focusing on individuals in this way obscures the reality that destructive policies are deeply rooted in structures of power subordinating people to profit. This helps justify the media’s failure to examine the consistent brutality of policy goals and means over many years and decades, and the kind of mass popular awareness and opposition that would be required to reform them.

Focusing on individuals, particularly rogue ‘bad apples’, promotes the idea that the status quo is fundamentally benign – with Bush and Blair gone, all will be well under John Kerry and Gordon Brown (just as all was supposed to have been well under Clinton and Blair). In the real world, the institutions of power that dominate society remain unaffected by such minor alterations, providing little reason to expect significant positive change. Result: we keep focusing on, loving, hating and changing our leaders – and the institutions pulling their strings keep bombing and exploiting Third World countries.

Paxman’s clichéd comments contrasted starkly with Chomsky’s informed and rational responses. We were clearly, here, dealing with two very different mindsets – Paxman was assertive and assured, but there was a sense that his confidence was ultimately rooted in a sense of ‘what everyone knows to be true’. Chomsky’s answers, by contrast, were rooted in his own independent and critical thought, and in serious research of the facts and issues. At a gut level, there was something real about Chomsky and something fake about Paxman. Chomsky’s answer to the question of why George Bush behaves as he does was a good example:


“Because I don’t think they care that much about terror; in fact we know that. Take say the invasion of Iraq, it was predicted by just about every specialist in intelligence agencies that the invasion of Iraq would increase the threat of al-Qaeda style terror, which is exactly what happened.”

It was good to hear this point being made on a BBC news programme that forever refers to the “war on terror” without using inverted commas. Much of the BBC’s coverage of foreign affairs is premised on the idea that the US and UK governments are passionately committed to fighting terrorism. Typically, in September 2003, the BBC’s Washington correspondent, Matt Frei, said of the United States:

“The war with terror may have moved from these [the United States’} shores to Iraq. But for how long?” (Frei, BBC News At Ten, September 10, 2003)

Again, we felt that Chomsky was speaking from another, real world existing beyond the media’s “necessary illusions”. Paxman couldn’t disagree with Chomsky on this occasion, however, because he was not in a position to challenge the idea that intelligence agencies had widely predicted an increase in terrorism as a result of the invasion – an undeniable fact. Silence and moving swiftly on are favoured media strategies in this kind of situation.

A Machiavellian Romance – Don’t Mention The O-Word

Paxman again asked about Bush’s motivation for invading Iraq: “Then why would he do it?”


“Because invading Iraq has value in itself. I mean establishing…”


“Well what value?”

Only one, unspoken word could be heard in the minds of viewers as Paxman repeatedly pressed the question – ‘Oil!’ From very early on in the Iraq crisis, a Media Bleat Point was quickly passed so that to suggest oil as a primary motive for the invasion was to be labelled a childish conspiracy theorist. The sheer weight of unchallenged assertions to this effect from the likes of Straw, Powell, Perle, Adelman and Frum on programmes like Newsnight, Question Time, Channel 4 News and the Jonathan Dimbleby programme, soon established this as ‘Truth’.

Earlier this year, former US Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, reported seeing a memorandum preparing for war dating from the first days of the Bush administration, long before the September 11 attacks. Another, marked “secret” said, “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq”. O’Neill also saw a Pentagon document entitled “Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts”, which discussed the division of Iraq’s fuel reserves among the world’s oil companies. (Julian Borger, ‘Bush decided to remove Saddam “on day one”‘, The Guardian, January 12, 2004)

None of this impacted on the media’s view of oil ‘conspiracy theories’.

Journalists responded in similar fashion a decade earlier. Analysis of media reporting of the 1991 Gulf War found that the issue of oil featured in just 4% of BBC1 reports and in 3% of BBC2 reports – a remarkable achievement, given the blindingly obvious central concern. In January 1991, the Financial Times explained that the war “came about not because of US hubris and imperialism, or because of oil” but “because the annexation of Kuwait was an act intolerable to a world which cannot live in peace if the integrity of nations is treated so casually”. (Leader, ‘A cause for war’, Financial Times, January 17, 1991)

This doubtless came as interesting news to people living in East Timor, Panama, Palestine and elsewhere. Journalists love to berate greens and leftists for their naivety, while affecting a level of wide-eyed innocence that puts the most ardent tree-hugger to shame. This is a kind of pragmatic idealism, or Machiavellian romanticism.

Chomsky gave his view on the current US goal:

“Establishing the first secure military base in a dependent client state at the heart of the energy producing region of the world.”

Chomsky rightly suggested that control of oil, dominance of the region, and related influence over the wider energy-dependent world were all factors. The Herd Trap was simply to mention oil as the motive – Chomsky evaded this with ease.


“Don’t you even think that the people of Iraq are better off having got rid of a dictator?”

The Media Herd Trap here involved rejecting war +and+ the removal of Saddam Hussein, a position which plays into the hands of propagandists smearing the left as “useful idiots”, and even secret admirers, of Saddam. As the Observer’s Nick Cohen wrote to Media Lens on this theme: “Dear Serviles… Viva Joe Stalin.” (Email to Media Lens, March 15, 2002)


“They got rid of two brutal regimes – one that we are supposed to talk about, the other one we are not supposed to talk about. The two brutal regimes were Saddam Hussein’s, and the US-British sanctions, which were devastating society, had killed hundreds of thousands of people, [and] were forcing people to be reliant on Saddam Hussein. Now the sanctions could obviously have been turned to weapons, rather than destroying society, without an invasion. If that had happened, it is not at all impossible that the people of Iraq would have sent Saddam Hussein to the same fate as other monsters supported by the US and Britain: Ceausescu, Suharto, Duvalier, Marcos; there’s a long list of them. In fact the Westerners who know Iraq best were predicting this all along.”


“You seem to be suggesting, or implying, perhaps I’m being unfair to you, but you seem to be implying there is some equivalence between democratically elected heads of state like George Bush or Prime Ministers like Tony Blair and regimes in places like Iraq.”

Having failed to lure Chomsky into the first Herd Trap, Paxman here resorted to a second – the suggestion that Bush and Blair are no better than Saddam. Michael Buerk made a similar comment when interviewing former UN assistant-secretary general Denis Halliday in a BBC radio interview in 2001:

“You can’t… you can’t +possibly+ draw a moral equivalence between Saddam Hussein and George Bush Senior, can you?”

Listeners could sense the trap closing around Halliday when he defiantly suggested that it was indeed possible to suggest an equivalence.

The problem being, of course, that the question of moral equivalence arises out of a heavily loaded media context. The mainstream media forever portray our leaders as fundamentally virtuous and well-intentioned. In an April 2003 documentary, for example, Matt Frei said:

“There’s no doubt that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East… is now increasingly tied up with military power.” (Panorama, BBC1, April 13, 2003)

In a May 1999 Observer article, Andrew Marr declared of Blair:

“I am constantly impressed, but also mildly alarmed, by his utter lack of cynicism.” (Marr, ’Hail to the chief. Sorry, Bill, but this time we’re talking about Tony’, The Observer, May 16, 1999)

A June 2004 Channel 4 documentary, In Search of Tony Blair, told us:

“Blair’s Christianity guided him into politics to help build a fairer society.” (Channel 4, June 12, 2004)

Political historian Anthony Sheldon added on the Iraq war:

“I think the tragedy of Tony Blair is that it was when he thought that he was being his most morally right that he made his fundamental error.” Blair was “utterly certain he was morally right”, according to Sheldon.

To affirm a “moral equivalence” between Western governments glorified in this way, and enemy leaders demonised in equal measure, is to crash through an ancient and thickly-sown propaganda minefield – audience outrage and rejection are all but guaranteed. Chomsky, however, responded:

“The term moral equivalence is an interesting one, it was invented I think by Jeane Kirkpatrick as a method of trying to prevent criticism of foreign policy and state decisions. It is a meaningless notion, there is no moral equivalence whatsoever.”

Chomsky was exposing Paxman’s game to his face and to the audience. It was a stunning answer, one that brought back fond memories of Chomsky’s encounter with Andrew Marr (now the BBC’s political editor) in 1996. Marr had suggested to Chomsky:

“What I don’t get is that all of this suggests – I’m a journalist – people like me are self-censoring.”

Chomsky responded:

“I don’t say you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is, if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” (The Big Idea, BBC2, February 14, 1996)

Marr responded with a series of curious facial gestures but said nothing.

Western Civilisation And Other Good Ideas


“If it is preferable for an individual to live in a liberal democracy, is there benefit to be gained by spreading the values of that democracy however you can?”

This was Paxman’s least sophisticated Media Herd Cliché. He is not, here, we believe, merely playing devil’s advocate. Along with much of the media establishment, Paxman honestly believes that the West is in the business of promoting liberal democracy wherever possible. This is one of the bedrock assumptions of media coverage capable of weathering almost any conflicting evidence.

Thus, the Sunday Telegraph observed ahead of the war last year, that “it is the neighbourly duty of the West to liberate the Iraqis from their captivity at the hands of Saddam”. (Matthew d’Ancona, ‘The Pope’s disapproval worries Blair more than a million marchers’, Sunday Telegraph, February 23, 2003)

Or consider the remarkable presumption contained in Nick Cohen’s reference to “an anti-war movement which persuaded one million people to tell Iraqis they must continue to live under a tyranny…” (Cohen, ‘The Left’s unholy alliance with religious bigotry’, The Observer, February 23, 2003)

“Yes, the Americans want democracy here [Iraq]”, Jonathan Rugman declared on Channel 4 News, “but they don’t want to die for it”. (November 12, 2003)

Of course the Americans want to give Iraqis the free and untrammelled right to have nothing more whatever to do with America. What does it matter to America if, in securing that noble end, it pays the price in thousands of dead and injured troops, and in hundreds of billions of dollars spent?

Paxman’s question does not qualify as a Media Herd Trap, however – media and political propaganda is unable to suppress the evidence that makes a mockery of the idea that the US is motivated by a desire to spread democracy around the world. Chomsky was therefore again free to challenge the whole basis of the question without alienating the audience.


“That reminds me of the question that Ghandi was once asked about western civilisation: what did he think of it? He said ‘Yeah, it would be a good idea.’ In fact it would be a good idea to spread the values of liberal democracy. But that’s not what the US and Britain are trying to do. It’s not what they’ve done in the past. Take a look at the regions under their domination. They don’t spread liberal democracy. What they spread is dependence and subordination. Furthermore it’s well-known that this is a large part of the reason for the great opposition to US policy within the Middle East. In fact this was known in the 1950’s.”


“But there is a whole slur [sic] of countries in eastern Europe right now that would say we are better off now than we were when we were living under the Soviet Empire. As a consequence of how the West behaved.”

Some years ago, Chomsky might well have responded that people living under US domination would have dreamed of life under Soviet domination. People in Eastern Europe, for example, were imprisoned for dissent but they were not massacred in their hundreds of thousands as happened in US client states in Central America, Vietnam, Indonesia and elsewhere. Chomsky might also have pointed to the horrific collapse in health and life expectancy in Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Typically, Paxman was here relying on public ignorance and presumption – most viewers have no idea how much better or worse off people in Eastern Europe are, or are likely to become, in comparison to the Soviet era (presumed to be incomparably worse).


“And there are a lot of countries in US domains, like Central America, the Caribbean, who wish that they could be free of American domination. We don’t pay much attention to what happens there but +they+ do. In the 1980s when the current incumbents were in their Reaganite phase, hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Central America. The US carried out a massive terrorist attack against Nicaragua, mainly as a war on the church. They assassinated an archbishop and murdered six leading Jesuit intellectuals. This is in El Salvador. It was a monstrous period. What did they impose? Was it liberal democracies? No.”


“You’ve mentioned on two or three occasions this relationship between the United States and Britain. Do you understand why Tony Blair behaved as he did over Afghanistan and Iraq?“

This was a version of the Media Herd Cliché previously mentioned (promoting a focus on individuals rather than on systems of power). For the first time Paxman seemed genuinely interested to hear Chomsky’s view.


“Well, if you look at the British diplomatic history, back in the 1940s, Britain had to make a decision. Britain had been the major world power. The United States, though by far the richest country in the world, was not a major actor in the global scene, except regionally. By the Second World War, it was obvious the US was going to be the dominant power, everyone knew that. Britain had to make a choice. Was it going to be part of what would ultimately be a Europe that might move towards independence, or would it be what the Foreign Office called a ‘junior partner’ to the United States? Well, it essentially made that choice to be a junior partner to the United States.

“So during the Cuban missile crisis, for example, you look at the declassified record, they treated Britain with total contempt. Harold McMillan wasn’t even informed of what was going on and Britain’s existence was at stake. It was dangerous. One high official, probably Dean Acherson, although he’s not identified, described Britain as, in his words, ‘Our lieutenant, the fashionable word is partner’. Well the British would like to hear the fashionable word, but the masters use the actual word. Those are choices Britain has to make. I mean why Blair decided, I couldn’t say.”


“Noam Chomsky, thank you.”

Thus ended the interview. Paxman, the country’s premier ‘attack dog’ interviewer – reputed to earn at least £1 million a year – had posed a series of clichés and clumsy provocations. We saw the fundamental superficiality and banality of the mainstream media, and got a glimpse of the extent and depth of Chomsky’s insight and learning.

But how extraordinary to reflect that Chomsky – the world’s most-read author on international affairs, and one of the all-time great political analysts – was granted this single Newsnight ‘special’ interview, while lunar celebrities such as Adelman, Frum and Perle are regular fixtures on the programme.

There was perhaps the sense of a dissident bone being tossed to the hundreds of people who have sent complaints to Newsnight over the last couple of years. The understanding was clear enough: Chomsky will be granted a kind of ‘celebrity’ interview in the British Museum while visiting the country, but do not expect him to be accepted as a serious, regular contributor to the programme. After all, as Peter Horrocks, Newsnight editor at the time, told staff in 1997:

“Our job should not be to quarrel with the purpose of policy, but to question its implementation.” (Quoted, Robert Newman, The Guardian, August 7, 2000)


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to: Jeremy PaxmanEmail: jeremy.paxman@bbc.co.uk

Peter Barron, editor of NewsnightEmail: peter.barron@bbc.co.uk

Please also send all emails to us at Media Lens:Email: editor@medialens.org

Bush\’s Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides

June 4, 2004 at 7:44 pm
Contributed by:


I know it’s been quite a while since I posted to the blog. It’s certainly not for a lack of news! I’m just too occupied with work, and besides, the media are finally doing their jobs as journalists a little more, making my blogging less urgent.

But here’s one you gotta see. I think it speaks volumes about how we got where we are today, and what’s really going on in the White House. Apparently, Dubya believes he’s got a direct line to God, and his actions are nothing less than “God’s will.”

Scary, scary stuff. (By the way, if you missed the article on the Dominionists, you should definitely check that one out: George W. Bush, Head of the American Dominionist Church/State.)

Rapture accellerant, anyone?


Bush Leagues

Bush’s Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides

Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Jun 4, 2004

President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.”

In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.

“We’re at war, there’s no doubt about it. What I don’t know anymore is just who the enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing.”

Aides say the President gets “hung up on minor details,” micromanaging to the extreme while ignoring the bigger picture. He will spend hours personally reviewing and approving every attack ad against his Democratic opponent and then kiss off a meeting on economic issues.

“This is what is killing us on Iraq,” one aide says. “We lost focus The President got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items.”

Aides who raise questions quickly find themselves shut out of access to the President or other top advisors. Among top officials, Bush’s inner circle is shrinking. Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen out of favor because of his growing doubts about the administration’s war against Iraq.

The President’s abrupt dismissal of CIA Directory George Tenet Wednesday night is, aides say, an example of how he works.

“Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn’t hear of it,” says an aide. “That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying ‘that’s it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now.”

Tenet was allowed to resign “voluntarily” and Bush informed his shocked staff of the decision Thursday morning. One aide says the President actually described the decision as “God’s will.”

God may also be the reason Attorney General John Ashcroft, the administration’s lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue threatens freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft “the Blues Brothers” because “they’re on a mission from God.”

“The Attorney General is tight with the President because of religion,” says one aide. “They both believe any action is justifiable in the name of God.”

But the President who says he rules at the behest of God can also tongue-lash those he perceives as disloyal, calling them “fucking assholes” in front of other staff, berating one cabinet official in front of others and labeling anyone who disagrees with him “unpatriotic” or “anti-American.”

“The mood here is that we’re under siege, there’s no doubt about it,” says one troubled aide who admits he is looking for work elsewhere. “In this administration, you don’t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the record.

(c) Copyright 2004 by Capitol Hill Blue

Go to Original

Privileged Should Heed Kosman\’s Message

May 27, 2004 at 9:54 pm
Contributed by:

My step dad, one of the few graduates of Harvard who also happens to be a Viet Nam vet, submitted this letter to the editor of the Harvard Alumni magazine. He makes a very interesting point about the real effects of the disproportionate burden the poor shoulder when it comes to military service.

Published on Monday, May 24, 2004
Privileged Should Heed Kosman’s Message
Letters to the Editors

To the editors:
Thirty-six years ago this fall I became the first Vietnam veteran to register as a freshman at Harvard. My new classmates had little, if any, understanding or appreciation for my experience. The University, unlike a generation before us, was not a veteran friendly place. Little has changed since (Column, “Poor Man’s Fight,” May 17).

One reality upon which my classmates and I did agree was that the war in Vietnam was an awful mistake. We would, thereby, dedicate ourselves to both stopping it and making certain that America did not send her grand young sons off in harm’s way again without a worthy cause and an executable plan.

What happened? As Phoebe Kosman ’05 notes in her excellent column, nothing.

There are precious few Vietnam veterans in the three branches of the federal government. That absence permeates through all elements of our society from the faculty in Harvard University (student deferments personified thirty-five years after) to business, non profits, foundations, the legal profession, physicians, etc.

Now, as with Vietnam, rich men wage the war and poor boys fight it.

Kosman concludes with her prophetic, “We must remember what it’s like to be 20. And in 30 years, we must not allow another generation of twenty-year-olds to be shipped overseas on the flimsiest of pretenses.”

History tells us that we will not remember. The country is currently run by a generation of men who avoided the draft, the same men who, like my classmates, once dedicated themselves to never allowing another Vietnam. Perhaps if they had actually served when their country called, had been shot at with live ammo, had been forced into the full horror of a front row seat in a theater of combat, perhaps then they might have thought twice before marching our children into perdition again.

Another generation like the last is currently being bred at Harvard and America’s other elite institutions. Despite Kosman’s wistful warning, perhaps it would be more fitting to cite George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


Washington, D.C.

May 18, 2004

Greg Palast: Muzzling Michael

May 6, 2004 at 2:18 pm
Contributed by:


I have a huge backlog of stuff to send you, as usual. But this one was too good to wait. Greg Palast (author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy of course) lays it down. I’m pasting the whole thing right here into the email so you don’t even have to click to read it.


Thursday, May 6, 2004
Hands off the fat guy in the chicken suit, Mr. Mogul.

by Greg Palast, author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”  Palast is currently in LA to receive the ACLU’s Freedom of Expression award.

WHEN the fattened cats at Disney put the kibosh on Michael Moore’s new film, “Fahrenheit 9-11,” they did more than censor an artist.  Gagging Moore is only the latest maneuver in suppressing some most uncomfortable facts:  the Bush Administration’s killing off investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror including evidence involving a few members of the bin Laden family in the USA.

I know, because, with my investigative team at BBC television and The Guardian of Britain, I wrote and filmed the original reports on which Moore’s new documentary are based.

On November 11, 2001, just two months after the attack, BBC Television’s Newsnight displayed documents indicating that FBI agents were held back from investigating two members of the bin Laden family who were fronting for a “suspected terrorist organization” out of Falls Church, Virginia – that is, until September 13, 2001.  By that time, these birds had flown.

We further reported that upper level agents in the US government informed BBC that the Bush Administration had hobbled the investigation of Pakistan’s Khan Laboratories, which ran a flea market in atomic bomb blueprints.  Why were investigators stymied?  Because the money trail led back to the Saudis.

The next day, our Guardian team reported that agents were constrained in following the money trail from an extraordinary meeting held in Paris in 1996.  There, in the Hotel Monceau Royale, Saudi billionaires allegedly agreed to fund Al-Qaeda’s “educational” endeavors.

Those stories ran at the top of the nightly news in Britain and worldwide but not in the USA.  Why?

Our news teams picked up several awards including one I particularly hated getting:  a Project Censored Award from California State University’s school of journalism.   It’s the prize you get for a very important story that is simply locked out of the American press.

And that hurts.  I’m an American, an L.A. kid sent into journalistic exile in England.

What’s going on here?

Why the heck can’t agents follow the money, even when it takes them to Arabia?  Because, as we heard repeatedly from those muzzled inside the agencies,  Saudi money trails lead back to George H.W. Bush and his very fortunate sons and retainers.  We at BBC reported that too, at the top of the nightly news, everywhere but America.

Why are Americas media barons afraid to tell this story in the USA?  The BBC and Guardian stories were the ugly little dots connected by a single theme: oil contamination in American politics and money poisoning in the blood of our most powerful political family.  And that is news that dare not speak its name.

This is not the first time that Michael Moore attempted to take our BBC investigative reports past the US media border patrol.  In fact, our joke in the London newsroom is that if we can’t get our story on to American airwaves, we can just slip it to the fat guy in the chicken suit. Moore could sneak it past the censors as ‘entertainment.’

Here’s an example of Moore’s underground railroad operation to bring hard news to America: In the Guardian and on BBC TV, I reported that Florida’s then Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, removed tens of thousands of Black citizens from voter rolls just prior to the 2000 election.  Her office used a list of supposed ‘felons’ – a roster her office knew was baloney, filled almost exclusively with innocents.

I printed the first installment of that story in the Guardian papers while Al Gore was still in the race.  The Washington Post ran my story seven months later. By then, it could be read with a chuckle from the Bush White House.

The Black voter purge story would have never seen the light of day in the USA, despite its front-page play over the globe, were it not for Moore opening his book, “Stupid White Men,” with it.

So go ahead, Mr. Mickey Mouse mogul, censor the guy in the baseball cap, let the movie screens go dark, spread the blindness that is killing us.  Instead, show us fake fly-boys giving the “Mission Accomplished” thumbs up.   It’s so much easier, with the lights off, for the sheiks, who lend their credit cards to killers, to jack up the price of oil while our politicians prepare the heist of the next election, this time by computer.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Tube news in the USA is now thoroughly Fox-ified and print, with few exceptions, still kow-tows to the prevaricating pronouncements of our commander in chief.

Maybe I’m getting too worked up. After all, it’s just a movie.

But choking off distribution of Moore’s film looks suspiciously like a hunt and destroy mission on unwanted news, even when that news is hidden in a comic documentary. Why should the media moguls stop there?  How about an extra large orange suit for Michael for the new Hollywood wing in Guantanamo?

Krugman – What Went Wrong?

April 25, 2004 at 11:11 pm
Contributed by:


This Krugman article about our failed adventure in Iraq is exceptionally pithy. Highly recommended.


What Went Wrong?

By Paul Krugman

The New York Times

Friday 23 April 2004

    In April 11 of last year, just after U.S. forces took Baghdad, I warned that the Bush administration had a “pattern of conquest followed by malign neglect,” and that the same was likely to happen in Iraq. I’m sorry to say those worries proved justified.

    It’s now widely accepted that the administration “failed dismally to prepare for the security and nation-building missions in Iraq,” to quote Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies – not heretofore known as a Bush basher. Just as experts on peacekeeping predicted before the war, the invading force was grossly inadequate to maintain postwar security. And this problem was compounded by a chain of blunders: doing nothing to stop the postwar looting, disbanding the Iraqi Army, canceling local elections, appointing an interim council dominated by exiles with no political base and excluding important domestic groups.

    The lesson of the last few weeks is that the occupation has never recovered from those early errors. The insurgency, which began during those early months of chaos, has spread. Iraqi security forces have walked off their jobs, or turned against us. Attacks on convoys have multiplied, major roads have been closed, and reconstruction has slowed where it hasn’t stopped. Deteriorating security prevents progress, lack of progress feeds popular disillusionment, and disillusionment feeds the insurgency.

    Why was it predictable that Iraq would go wrong? The squandered victory in Afghanistan was an obvious precedent. But the character flaws in the Bush administration that led to the present crisis were fully visible in the months that followed 9/11.

    It quickly became apparent that President Bush, while willing to spend vast sums on the military, wasn’t willing to spend enough on security. And 9/11 didn’t shake the administration’s fanatical commitment to privatization and outsourcing, in which free-market ideology is inextricably mixed with eagerness to protect and reward corporate friends.

    Sure enough, the administration was unprepared for predictable security problems in Iraq, but moved quickly – in violation of international law – to impose its economic vision. Last month Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator of Iraq, told the BBC that he was sacked in part because he wanted to hold quick elections. His superiors wanted to privatize Iraqi industries first ? as part of a plan that, according to Mr. Garner, was drawn up in late 2001.

    Meanwhile, the administration handed out contracts without competitive bidding or even minimal oversight. It also systematically blocked proposals to have Congressional auditors oversee spending, or to impose severe penalties for fraud.

    Cronyism and corruption are major factors in Iraq’s downward spiral. This week the public radio program “Marketplace” is running a series titled “The Spoils of War,” which documents a level of corruption in Iraq worse than even harsh critics had suspected. The waste of money, though it may run into the billions, is arguably the least of it ? though military expenses are now $4.7 billion a month. The administration, true to form,is trying to hide the need for more money until after the election; Mr. Cordesman predicts that Iraq will need “in excess of $50-70 billion a year for probably two fiscal years.”

    More important, the “Marketplace” report confirms what is being widely reported: that the common view in Iraq is that members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council are using their positions to enrich themselves, and that U.S. companies are doing the same. President Bush’s idealistic language may be persuasive to Americans, but many Iraqis see U.S. forces as there to back a corrupt regime, not democracy.

    Now what? There’s a growing sense of foreboding, even panic, about Iraq among national security experts. “This is an extremely uncertain struggle,” says Mr. Cordesman, who, to his credit, also says the unsayable: we may not be able to “stay the course.” But yesterday Condoleezza Rice gave Republican lawmakers what Senator Rick Santorum called “a very upbeat report.”

    That’s very bad news. The mess in Iraq was created by officials who believed what they wanted to believe, and ignored awkward facts. It seems they have learned nothing.

Saudi – Bush Ties Update

April 25, 2004 at 2:11 pm
Contributed by:


The 9-11 investigation has finally yielded what the Bush administration has feared all along: a public awareness of our deadly embrace with the Saudis. It’s no longer, as I have called it before, a giant pink elephant in the living room that no one will acknowledge. As Bob Woodward revealed in his smash new book, Plan of Attack, Prince Bandar, aka “Bandar Bush” was advised of Bush’s plans to invade Iraq and take out Saddam even before Colin Powell was, and well before it was admitted to the public. (Indeed, Bush was claiming that Afghanistan was the focus at the time.)

Finally, the public is becoming aware that the Saudis are central to our problems with energy, Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and much more. Woodward reported that the Saudis were intentionally closing the tap a little to drive up prices, then would open it to lower prices just before the election. Finally, the public is becoming aware of the leverage that the Saudis have over oil prices, which then has a cascade effect on all of our commerce and industry. Finally, the public is thinking about the fact that the vast majority of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and indirectly funded by our money–paid to the Saudis in return for their oil.

Here are two recent articles on the Saudi-Bush connections that are worth reading.

First is a very good, very brief summary of some of the key facts:

The Royal Business
By James Ridgeway

The Village Voice

Thursday 22 April 2004

Go to Original

Next is a look at the Carlyle Group, and its close ties to the administration and the Saudis:

Pipeline Plan Leads Back to High-profile Investing Group

By Robert Trigaux
St. Petersburg Times

Monday 19 April 2004

Go to Original

And if you haven’t read them already, you might find these past GRL articles on the Saudis worthwhile.


Trust, Don\’t Verify

April 20, 2004 at 6:01 pm
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This is an article I’ve been waiting for someone to write. While Dubya follows Karl Rove’s prescription for success, constantly reinforcing his “conviction” and “credibility” regardless of how his position bears up against reality, the rest of us are left to scratch our heads and wonder what planet Bush is living on. Most sensible people, having discovered that what they’re doing is wrong-headed, will stop doing it, not insist that doing it is right because it’s consistent and because they mean what they say. He would do well to remember the First Rule of Holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

This article explores several instances of how Bush seems unaware that his view of the world is at growing variance with external reality. But he wants us to know that we can count on him to remain unaware. Good stuff.


Trust, Don’t Verify

Bush’s incredible definition of credibility.
By William Saletan

Slate Magazine

Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004, at 3:27 AM PTOne thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.

That’s the summation President Bush delivered as he wrapped up his press conference Tuesday night. It’s the message he emphasized throughout: Our commitment. Our pledge. Our word. My conviction. Given the stakes in Iraq and the war against terrorism, it would be petty to poke fun at Bush for calling credibility “incredibly important.” His routine misuse of the word “incredible,” while illiterate, is harmless. His misunderstanding of the word “credible,” however, isn’t harmless. It’s catastrophic.

To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. “A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America’s word, once given, can be relied upon,” he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush’s most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush’s notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.

Outside Bush’s head, his statements keep crashing into reality. Tuesday night, ABC’s Terry Moran reminded him, “Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, ‘We know where they are.’ How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong?”

Inside Bush’s head, however, all is peaceful. “The oil revenues, they’re bigger than we thought they would be,” Bush boasted to Moran, evidently unaware that this heightened the mystery of why the revenues weren’t covering the reconstruction. As to the WMD, Bush said the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq had confirmed that Iraq was “hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught.” See the logic? A country that hides something must be afraid of getting caught, and a country afraid of getting caught must be hiding something. Each statement validates the other, sparing Bush the need to find the WMD.

Bush does occasionally cite other people’s statements to support his credibility. Saddam Hussein “was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States,” Bush told Moran. “That’s … the assessment that Congress made from the intelligence. That’s the exact same assessment that the United Nations Security Council made with the intelligence.” Actually, the Security Council didn’t say Iraq was a threat to the United States, but never mind. The more fundamental problem with Bush’s appeal to prewar assessments by Congress and the Security Council is that these assessments weren’t reality. They were attempts—not even independent attempts, since the administration heavily lobbied both bodies—to approximate reality. When they turned out not to match reality, members of Congress (including Republicans) and the Security Council (including U.S. allies) repudiated them.

Not Bush. He’s impervious to evidence. “I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where [the WMD] are,” he told Time‘s John Dickerson at the press conference. A year after Saddam’s ouster and four months after Saddam’s capture, Bush continued to insist that “people who should know about weapons” are still “worried about getting killed, and therefore they’re not going to talk. … We’ll find out the truth about the weapons at some point.” You can agree or disagree with this theory. But you can’t falsify it.

Bush doesn’t see the problem. He’s too preoccupied with self-consistency to notice whether he’s consistent with anything else. “I thought it was important for the United Nations Security Council that when it says something, it means something,” he told Moran. “The United Nations passed a Security Council resolution unanimously that said, ‘Disarm or face serious consequences.’ And [Saddam] refused to disarm.” Never mind that the Security Council didn’t see what Bush saw in terms of Iraqi disarmament and didn’t mean what Bush meant in terms of serious consequences. Never mind that this difference in perception was so vast that Bush ducked a second Security Council vote on a use-of-force resolution. What’s important is that when the Security Council says something, it must mean something, even if the something the council said isn’t the something Bush meant.

As Tuesday night’s questions turned to the 9/11 investigation, Bush retreated again to the incontrovertible truths in his head. “There was nobody in our government, at least, and I don’t think [in] the prior government, that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale,” he told NBC’s David Gregory. Never mind that somebody who had worked in Bush’s administration and the prior administration—namely, counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke—had raised precisely this concern about the 1996 Olympics. Never mind that the president’s daily intelligence brief on Aug. 6, 2001—titled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in U.S.“—had warned Bush, “FBI information since [1998] indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” These were external phenomena and therefore irrelevant. What mattered was that Bush couldn’t “envision” the scenario.

Three times, Bush repeated the answer he gave to Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times: “Had there been a threat that required action by anybody in the government, I would have dealt with it.” Outside Bush’s head, the statement was patently false: The 9/11 threat required action, and Bush failed to deal with it. But inside Bush’s head, the statement was tautological: If there were a threat that required action, Bush would have dealt with it; Bush didn’t deal with it; therefore, there was no threat that required action. The third time Bush repeated this answer—in response to a question about whether he owed an “apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11″—he added, “The person responsible for the attacks was Osama Bin Laden.” This is how Bush’s mind works: Only a bad person can bear responsibility for a bad thing. I am a good person. Therefore, I bear no responsibility.

On 9/11, as on WMD, Bush mistakes affirmation for verification, description for reality, and words for deeds. “I was dealing with terrorism a lot as the president when George Tenet came in to brief me,” he told Chen. “I wanted Tenet in the Oval Office all the time. And we had briefings about terrorist threats.” This was Bush’s notion of dealing with terrorism: being briefed by the CIA director. The world that mattered was the Oval Office.

Did the briefings lead to action outside the office? No, because there was no “threat that required action.” What about the Aug. 6 brief? “I asked for the briefing,” Bush told Chen. “And that’s what triggered the [Aug. 6] report.” Tuesday’s Washington Post tells a different story: “According to senior intelligence officials familiar with the document, work on it began at the end of July, at the initiative of the CIA analyst [who] wanted to raise the issue” of Bin Laden’s threat to the U.S. mainland. But Bush can’t believe that someone outside his head was trying to tell him something. He’s certain he “triggered” the brief. That’s why, as he explained to Chen, he “didn’t think there was anything new” in it: He assumed it was his idea. He doesn’t understand that the point of a briefing is to be told something you hadn’t already thought of.

This explains the most amazing part of Bush’s answer to Chen: “What was interesting in [the brief] was that there was a report that the FBI was conducting field investigations. And that was good news, that they were doing their job.” Here is a president who reads that the FBI has found “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijacking” and concludes that all is well because the FBI is “investigating” such activity. Why does Bush make this mistake? Because he doesn’t understand that the “suspicious activity” is the subject of the brief. He thinks the “investigations” are the subject. He thinks he’s being told about his version of reality—the world inside his administration—not the world of plots beyond his awareness.

How does Bush square his obtuseness to the threat from Bin Laden with his obtuseness to the absence of a threat from Saddam? “After 9/11, the world changed for me,” he explained Tuesday night. That’s Bush in a nutshell: The world changed for him. Out went the assumption of safety, and in came the assumption of peril. In the real world, Bin Laden was still a religious fanatic with global reach, and Saddam was still a secular tyrant boxed in by sanctions and no-fly zones. But in Bush’s head, everything changed.

To many Americans, the gap between Bush’s statements about the months before 9/11, on the one hand, and the emerging evidence about those months, on the other, raises doubts about the credibility of their government. To other nations, the gap between Bush’s statements about Iraqi weapons, on the one hand, and the emerging evidence about those weapons, on the other, has become the central reason to distrust the United States in other matters of enormous consequence, such as North Korea’s nuclear program.

To all of this, however, Bush is blind. He doesn’t measure his version of the world against anybody else’s. He measures his version against itself. He says the same thing today that he said yesterday. That’s why, when he was asked Tuesday whether he felt any responsibility for failing to stop the 9/11 plot, he kept shrugging that “the country”—not the president—wasn’t on the lookout. It’s also why, when he was asked to name his biggest mistake since 9/11, he insisted, “Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons [not found in Iraq], I still would’ve called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein.” Bush believes now what he believed then. Incredible, but true.

William Saletan is Slate’s chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2098810/

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