The Left Media and "Conspiracy". CIA and Cocaine vs 9/11
The "progressive" media reaction to the CIA-Crack story 6 years ago compared and contrasted to the reaction to the 9-11 scandal.
The book "Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press" by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, is a solid, well documented 394 page history of CIA 'misdeeds' primarily focusing on the CIA's role in trafficking cocaine (and crack) in the US to fund the illegal Contra War in Nicaragua.
Today, over a decade after Contra wars in Central America, the CIA's role in the drug trade (amongst other dubious crimes) is both well-documented and well known.
However, the media's response to the original story that exposed the CIA's drug trafficking (August 18, 1996) in the San Jose Mercury News mirrors that of mainstream and progressive media response to US government cover-up and possible criminal negligence relating to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
After intensive research, interviews, on-site travel to Nicaragua and documentation, Gary Webb released a series of articles entitled "Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion."
The CIA, New York Times, Washington Post eagerly led an all out assault on Webb's work, which was incidentally backed up with full documentation on the Mercury News' website. Regardless, the corporate media machine (along with the CIA) went into high gear to destroy Webb, and discredit his story with invalidated statements and dismissals similar to those of David Corn and other progressive who refuse to entertain the idea that that the US government/agencies could be complicit in either shielding would-be hijackers or ignoring clear warnings for political motivations.
In fact, Cockburn and St. Clair write about the media 'counterattack' to Gary Webb's expose of the CIA: "Webb's fiercest assailants were not on the right. They were mainstream liberals, such as Walter Pincus and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and David Corn of the Nation." After being smeared with outright lies and unsubstantiated dismissals of Webb's story through "anonymous sources" in the New York Times and The Washington Post, Katharine Graham (the Post's president) later told CIA recruits: "We live in a dirty an dangerous World. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows" (31).
"The attack on Gary web by his colleagues in the national press was relentless...Even the so-called progressive press took shots at Webb, most notably the Nation, whose David Corn sniped that Webb's reporting was flawed" (56).
The first two chapters in "Whiteout" are exceptionally pertinent to understand how the mainstream media, with its progressive allies, not simply marginalize, but wage journalistic war to destroy solid muckraking and truly independent (and dangerous) journalism, rather than critically advancing dangerous stories.
Today, when Webb's story has finally (and quietly) been admitted as fact, the same game is being played on the left relating to 9-11. Notable leftist journalists such as Corn, dismiss any factually based argument that fingers any US government agencies, officials, or departments as complicit or criminally negligent in the terrorist attacks. Similar to the word "communist" during the Red Scare, the mention of "conspiracy theory" suffices to outright dismiss, reject, and condemn stories that delve deeply into a complex and sordid history of US government organization and actions that relate to possible criminality regarding 9-11.
Certainly the proven (and unquestioned) CIA involvement in the "crack epidemic" in the 1980s that funded illegal wars on civilians, the hiring of ex-Nazis, and toppling of democratic governments around the globe constitute a conspiracy. Unfortunately, as "Whiteout" demonstrates, the left backed away from the CIA-crack connection, and joined in the patronizing chorus condemning the story as fodder for "black paranoia" and "conspiracy".
After 9-11, as more and more substantial and credible evidence arises regarding CIA, FBI and corporate-influenced government complicity, especially in light of US/Bush oil interests, it seems imperative for the left to honestly and dispassionately cover stories relating to this issue.
Michael Albert of Znet argues that pursuing such a line of argument is a moot point, because activists are not struggling for a reorganized FBI or CIA, but for fundamental social and economic justice. It is precisely this attitude that allows corporate media to portray FBI, CIA and government actions as "intelligence failures". Thus, we now have the successful re-implementation COINTELPRO tactics, rather than a broader public that questions the fundamental (institutional) issues: that the US government does not act in the interest of its citizens and is blinded by corporate influences; that the CIA and FBI are both criminal organizations that dedicate large amounts of time and resources to engage in murderous, politically motivated behavior at home and abroad.
Consequently, the issue is not for the left to create a national dialogue on how to improve intelligence and security issues (we have CNN and the government for that), but to educate on, and wholly condemn the practices of the US intelligence agencies for what that are: the best funded domestic and international terrorist organizations in the world.
In fact, Albert's desire is for the left to focus on "institutions" and not on "conspiracies". The US government, war-machine, and the security-intelligence state are all institutions of oppression and terror. For the Left to outright dismiss dispassionate, journalistic reportage and investigation of possible government complicity or criminality into 9-11 fails under Albert's rubric. It would be tantamount for 1960s/70s leftists to reject an expose (and halt) to COINTELPRO, because it too was a vast conspiracy against its own civilians involving fraud, violence, oppression, and murder; Or to claim that to focus on COINTELPRO is pointless, because activists should not be concerned with how government intelligence agencies are run.
At the very least, regardless of one's politics, people should be protected from acts of terrorism such as 9-11. For the Left to even refuse to focus on shining light on serious problems, conflicts of interest, and lapses in security because it does not constitute a progressive issue, is to be cold and callous and truly insensitive to the loss of human life. At a minimum, Bush's cozy relationship with the Saudi government and Oil monarchs, the Enron scandal relating to its bankrupt Indian (in Dabhol) power plant, Unocal dealings with the Taliban for an oil pipeline, the CIA's employment of Islamic terrorists, government dismissals of pre-9-11 warnings and subsequent lying and cover-up, and the absolute refusal to investigate Zaccarias Moussaoui and other hijackers before 9-11 are serious issues that costs the lives of 3,000 human beings.
In the Preface to "Whiteout" the authors write: "When compelled to concede the Agency's criminal activities such journalists often take refuge in the notion of 'rogue agents' or, as a last resort, of a 'rogue Agency'. We do not accept this separation of the CIA's activities from the policies and directives of the US government" (vii).
[Message and links: While I wrote this to display the importance of true journalism on the left using the "Whiteout" as an example, the following links are worthy of serious, yet critical reading regarding the subject of government complicity in 9-11. Please use the comment form below to add other sources]
Was the US government alerted to September 11 attack? A 4-Part series from the World Socialist Web Site: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jan2002/sept-j16.shtml
The Enron, Cheney, Taliban Connection? Alternet's Syndication of Ron Callari's story from the Albion Monitor http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=12525
Central Asia gas deal underscores the real reasons for the Afghan war (WSWS) http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/afgh-j06.shtml
Officials told to 'back off' on Saudis before September 11 http://www.gregpalast.com/
FBI AND US SPY AGENTS SAY BUSH SPIKED BIN LADEN PROBES BEFORE 11 SEPTEMBER The Guardian (London)
Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations with Taliban over oil pipeline http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/06/05/memo/index_np.html?x
U.S. had agents inside al-Qaeda http://www.usatoday.com/news/attack/2002/06/03/cia-attacks.htm
The strange case of Zacarias Moussaoui: FBI refused to investigate man charged in September 11 attacks (WSWS) http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jan2002/mous-j05.shtml
Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press. The book by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso Press 1998)
CounterPunch: The newsletter maintained by authors of "Whiteout", St. Clair and Cockburn: www.counterpunch.org
"Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" a book by William Blum.
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