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9.11 investigation

Chinking At Last On Bu$h's Armour

Meanwhile the media, or at least some of the more powerful mainstream outlets, are in turn finally! picking holes in his armour, by starting to ask the questions that only those dismissed as "conspiracy theorists'' dared pose before.
"Every day, I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America"
During his speech last Sunday, Bu$h used the
During his speech last Sunday, Bu$h used the "terror'' word two dozen times
Sep. 14, 2003. 01:00 AM

Chinking at last on Bush's armour

Now that three days have passed since the second anniversary of 9/11, I feel free to follow in U.S. President George W. Bush's footsteps: I, too, will exploit this tragedy to further my career.

Of course, the stakes are much different. Me, I just need column fodder. Him, he needs cannon fodder and to pick up his approval ratings.

Meanwhile the media, or at least some of the more powerful mainstream outlets, are in turn finally! picking holes in his armour, by starting to ask the questions that only those dismissed as "conspiracy theorists'' dared pose before.

What did the administration know about the impending 9/11 attacks and when did it know it? Why did the White House cover up the Environmental Protection Agency's findings on the toxins in the fallout at Ground Zero? What ties were there, if any, between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda?

It was not so long ago that, as legendary New York columnist Jimmy Breslin noted, Bush avoided scrutiny because "news reporters go about the government like gardeners, bent over, smiling and nodding when one of the owners shows up. You only have to look at a White House news conference to see how they aggressively pursue your right to know."

Not that the press has had much of an opportunity to pursue anything, considering that, since he has been in the Oval Office, Bush has held only nine formal news conferences, a record low for a modern presidency.

Still, in The Perfect Storm: The American Media And Iraq, political scientist Lance Bennett writes that "the level of mediated public deliberation was so diminished as to make the preponderance of journalism little more than an instrumental extension a sort of propaganda helper of the strategic communication goals of the administration.

"With few notable exceptions, the press took a pass on its fourth estate prerogatives. Posing the hard questions, testing the administration's logic and execution at every point, remaining sceptical all this was drowned in a sea of waving flags and gung-ho celebrations of military technology."

Which explains why so many reporters happily accepted being labelled "embedded.''

Looking back on the columns I wrote last year at this time, it's hard not to go, nyah nyah. I was right. But so many have died. So many have paid the ultimate price for the media's complicity, whether willingly or out of fear of economic or regulatory retaliation, in this disaster.

Now the newshounds smell the fear of the administration as it raises the dead to justify everything, from its environmentally disastrous energy policy to tax cuts for the rich.

"Every day, I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America," the Washington Post quotes Bush as saying, in reply to a question in July about the $170 (U.S.) million budget for his presidential primary campaign, an uncontested primary campaign.

Funny, considering how he climbs all over the backs of the 9/11 victims, that he couldn't make time to show up at Ground Zero when, in a profoundly moving ceremony on Thursday, children read names from that endless list of the dead. Or that First Lady Laura Bush, who has found the will and the way for photo ops with the "newly liberated" women of Afghanistan, ignores the pleas for an audience with the American 9/11 widows.

Anyway, during his speech last Sunday, Bush used the "terror'' word at least two dozen times. And, as he stumps around the country raising even more money for the Republican coffers, he just repeats it over and over again. (Not that the news networks are much different. All day Thursday, the words "fear'' and "terror'' figured prominently in their graphics.)

Still, as the New York Times' Paul Krugman pointed out on Friday, "The press has become a lot less shy about pointing out the administration's exploitation of 9/11, partly because that exploitation has become so crushingly obvious."

But the media are still compelled to cover Bush's words, even when they are so cynically exploitative, because, after all, he is the president.

No wonder that, as the Pew Research Center For The People And The Press reports, most Americans fear that more terrorist strikes are inevitable, with 74 per cent convinced that they will "be part of life." Never mind that, as international affairs expert Gwynne Dyer noted in the Star last week, "not one further American has died from Islamist terrorism on home soil" since 9/11.

A much greater leader, facing a much more menacing enemy, once said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

If the U.S. media were to continue to do their job right, they'd point out that their current president is no leader, not if he continues to exhort his people to cower in terror.

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