Whatever you do, don't diss the King: when Bush-bullies attack
reposting....hope I don't run into any Bush-bullies as result? This come from the
alternative media's www.buzzflash.com
December 24, 2003
MAUREEN FARRELL ARCHIVES
Whatever You Do, Don't Diss the King: When Bush-Backing Bullies Attack
by Maureen Farrell
"YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP," Andrew Sullivan announced, referring to Rep. Jim McDermott's most recent controversial comments. "Fresh from Howard Dean's raising of the question of whether President Bush had been tipped off in advance by the Saudis about 9/11 comes Democrat Jim McDermott, not exactly a stranger to conspiracy theories." Citing McDermott's observation that the U.S. could have found Saddam Hussein "a long time ago if they wanted," Sullivan criticized the Congressman for saying that the Bush administration knew Saddam's whereabouts and timed his capture for political gain.
"You begin to wonder if some Democrats have gone nuts -- politically as well as psychologically," Sullivan remarked.
Dear God, this is getting old, isn't it? While the "Democrats-as-traitors" smear has run its course (particularly since "Baghdad Jim" was vindicated in the end) "crazy conspiracy theorist" is the Bush-protecting, truth-deflecting insult du jour. But considering that three weeks ago, Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood issued his less-than-subtle hint that the U.S. was "this close" to nabbing Saddam [Pantagraph] and last summer's headlines repeatedly made similar claims [Google], McDermott's musings aren't as far-fetched as Sullivan would have you believe.
For those keeping track, the progression went something like this:
In July, Australia's The World Today reported that "former Pentagon insiders say they think US authorities are close to catching Saddam Hussein in Iraq within weeks," while the BBC announced that "US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Monday that troops carrying out such raids in Iraq "were just hours behind Saddam Hussein."
On August 15, The Sydney Morning Herald published comments from senior US commander Col. James Hickey who said, "We're working on a lot of interesting information right now and have good reason to believe [Saddam] is still in this area.. . He's running out of space and he's running out of support. We're going to get him and it's going to be sooner rather than later..."
On Dec. 2, the following quotes by Republican Congressman Ray LaHood were published on Pantagraph.com:
"We're this close" [to catching Saddam Hussein] - LaHood
"Do you know something we don't?" - Pantagraph editorial board member
"Yes, I do." - LaHood
On Dec. 15, Rep. Jim McDermott told a Seattle radio station, "I don't know that it [Saddam's capture] was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they'd find him."
Given this, does Sullivan really consider McDermott's comments "nuts"? Or is it that, once again, the official story doesn't quite mesh with what we've been told, and it's best to head off speculation?
Soon after Saddam's capture, several reports emerged, pointing to inaccuracies within the official U.S. account. The real story, one paper reported, "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete." Though few were swayed by Saddam's sister's observation that her brother had been drugged, less than a week after his capture, a British newspaper stated that "Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him." [Agence France-Presse] Meanwhile, on Dec. 21, Bloomberg.com reported that "Hussein Was Held by Kurds Before U.S. Capture," [Bloomberg.com] and Scotland's Sunday Herald reported that the Kurdish media, which was first to disclose the news, claimed that "Saddam Hussein, the former President of the Iraqi regime, was captured by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan." [Sunday Herald]
Now that contradictory information has begun to trickle in, it seems that the official version of the story, like far too many official versions before it, may not be entirely accurate. And considering that last May, Andrew Sullivan deemed the BBC's deconstruction of the original heavily-propagandized Jessica Lynch story a "smear" told by a "far-lefty" [Journalism.org], he'll have to excuse us for not trusting his insights this time around, either.
Then, too, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner has openly stated that much of what we're reading about Saddam's capture isn't designed to inform us, but to fool others. "We are seeing an orchestrated media campaign by the administration and a psychological operation aimed at the insurgents in Iraq," he said. "As a former instructor at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College, I am familiar with the pattern of using the press to conduct psychological operations. . . The technique is straightforward: plant stories or persuade media outlets to slant the news in a way that debilitates your enemy. And so far, media reports on the intelligence significance of Saddam's capture have followed that pattern to the letter."
Citing "the terrible job" The Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor have done cutting through the spin, Gardiner wondered, "Why are so few real questions raised by reporters when they are confronted with the military's media and psychological operations campaign? Why aren't they helping us get to truth?" [MediaChannel.org]
Last time Rep. McDermott was pilloried by pundits, you might recall, it was for telling the truth about Bush's lies. "The President of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war," he said, in the fall of 2002, right about the time George Bush was telling tall tales about Saddam being "six months away" from developing a nuclear weapon. [CommonDreams.org]
At the time, the Republican National Committee was outraged by McDermott's comments, [RNC.org] as were dittoheads nationwide. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes [MSNBC] was appalled by McDermott's blasphemous assertion that the Bush administration "sometimes" issued "misinformation" and "would mislead the American people." Hayes also took umbrage to other sins, such as McDermott's charitable stance regarding weapons inspections; his refusal to "backpeddle" from the truth; and the Congressman's concerns over the Bush administration's ever-changing rationale for war. [WeeklyStandard.com]
It wasn't that long ago (May 7 to be exact) that former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer told reporters, "One of the reasons we went to war was because of [Iraq's] possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on that front at all." Somehow, in the interim, that imminent threat morphed into a possible weapons program. "So what's the difference?" George Bush asked Diane Sawyer. [New York Times] Billions of dollars and thousands of lives later, we might ask, "So what was the hurry?"
As memories of White House denials and fabrications linger, a litmus test begins to emerge: the louder right-wing pundits howl about any given story, it seems, the nearer and dearer the truth.
At times, the media attack machine can be downright comical, however. Unsatisfied with merely taking swipes at Congressman McDermott (making certain to refer to him as "Baghdad Jim," of course), Newsmax also recently went after Madeleine Albright for "telling reporters that the Bush administration may already have captured Osama bin Laden and will release the news just before next year's presidential election." Yes, Virginia, the Bush administration's political maneuvers have become so over-the-top, that when our former Secretary of State says it's a "possibility" Karl Rove might be harboring Osama bin Laden, right-wingers believe she's serious and promptly step in to protect our appointed king. [Newsmax]
"It's nuts. It's staggering. It's paranoid," Bill Bennett protested and Albright felt compelled to explain. "Last night, in the makeup room at Fox News, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment to Mort Kondracke concerning Osama bin Laden," she said. "To my amazement, Mr. Kondracke immediately went on the air to repeat this comment, which was made to a person I thought was a friend and smart enough to know the difference between a serious statement and one that was not."
The million dollar question throughout all of this, of course, is where does the blame for this bizarre political climate lie? With McDermott and Albright or the Mayberry Machiavellis and the pundits who protect them?
Recent retaliatory attacks may provide the answer. While former psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer dismissed Howard Dean's announcement "that 'the most interesting' theory as to why the president is 'suppressing' the Sept. 11 report is that Bush knew about Sept. 11 in advance" by saying "it's time to check on thorazine supplies," Krauthammer's tact was made even more unethical by the misrepresentation of Dean's words. "But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kind of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and eventually, they get repeated as fact," Dean continued. "So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission," he added, though Krauthammer failed to notice.
Dean could have spoken more judiciously, of course, but even so, Krauthammer's attack lost its oomph once Sept. 11 Commission chairman Gov. Thomas Kean admitted that the 911 attacks could have been prevented. And though CBS News reported that Kean "is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame," [CBS News] Kean soon softened his rhetoric before, as the Boston Globe pointed out, "the vaunted Bush attack machine," could call its media minions to arms. "One reason the attack machine didn't unload on Kean immediately last week," the Globe's Thomas Oliphant explained, "was that he quickly amended his comments. . . and gave the White House nothing defined to shoot at."
Nevertheless, Kean's initial statement was stunning enough to finally land Sept. 11 widow Kristen Breitweiser a guest spot on the Dec.18 edition of Hardball, where she expressed relief that at least one official was at long last saying that someone should be held accountable for 9/11 intelligence failures. When asked what she would do differently had she been president on Sept. 11, she alluded to the President's August 6, 2001 briefing that warned that Osama bin Laden was planning to hijack airplanes in the U.S., and replied:
BREITWEISER: Undoubtedly, I think that I would have told the public. I would have told people like my husband and the 3,000 others that worked in New York City and that decided to fly on planes that day that we were a nation under an imminent threat, that the airlines were a target.
And after the first building in New York City, then you know what?
People like my husband in the second building would have immediately fled. They would have immediately evacuated that second tower, because they wouldn't have thought it was an accident.
People like Donald Rumsfeld may not have sat at his desk for 45 minutes until the Pentagon was hit. People like the president wouldn't have sat there for 25 minutes in front of a group of children.
BREITWEISER: They would have acted more decisively. Lives would have been saved. I would have informed the public.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like the problem is at the top.
BREITWEISER: It does. [MSNBC]
Of course, while Dean is fair game, few pundits would dream of attacking Breitweiser and other Sept. 11 victims' family members for making such assertions or raising questions. Wondering about everything from how the FBI immediately knew exactly which flight schools to search and which A.T.M. videotape would reap Mohammed Atta's mugshot to why NORAD failed to promptly react, Breitweiser and three other Sept. 11 widows were featured in the August 25 edition of the New York Observer. "When you pull it [NORAD's 9/11 timeline] apart, it just doesn't reconcile with the official storyline," Lorie van Auken said. ". . .There's no way this could be. Somebody is not telling us the whole story." [911Truth.org]
Lest anyone believe that these widows and Gov. Kean also need thorazine, the Daily Misleader reminds us that although Bush denies any foreknowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, once upon a time, the White House conceded otherwise. [Misleader.org]. And as the Boston Globe's Thomas Oliphant announced, "The problem is not Tom Kean's assertion that the terrorist attack on the United States two years ago was preventable, it is President Bush's repeated assurance that it was not." [Boston Globe]
"[T]he White House [has] decided to lead a fresh burst of weird propaganda on a nearly two-year-old theme about unconnected dots and intelligence chatter, designed to create the impression that the attacks were literally bolts from the blue instead of evidence that the government had been caught napping," Oliphant continued, reminding us that warnings of a "spectacular attack" [BuzzFlash.com] are not just figments of our collective imaginations.
Else you're beginning to believe the spin, however, this brief retrospective should shock you out of it:
"There were lots of warnings." -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Parade Magazine interview, Defense Department Website, Oct 12, 2001)
"As each day goes by we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before September 11th than it has ever admitted." -- Former Senator and 911 commissioner Max Cleland ("9/11 Commission Could Subpoena Oval Office Files," The New York Times, Oct. 26, 2003)
"I don't believe any longer that it's a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable blueprint, and we want to know why they didn't act on it." -- Senator Arlen Specter ("FBI, CIA Brass in a Sling," New York Daily News, June 6, 2002).
"They don't have any excuse because the information was in their lap, and they didn't do anything to prevent it." -- Senator Richard Shelby, member of the joint intelligence committee investigating 9/11 ("Another Dot That Didn't Get Connected," San Francisco Chronicle, June 3, 2002).
"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done. This was not something that had to happen." -- 911 head Thomas Kean, ("9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable," CBS News, Dec. 18, 2003)
"[T]he least understandable argument of all is the line first used by Rice in May of 2002, that no one could have foreseen that terrorists would hijack airplanes and crash-fly them into buildings. It is especially odd coming from the coordination person in the White House. . . It is also odd coming from the official who had an administration plan for actions against Al Qaeda on her desk on the day of the attacks." -- Thomas Oliphant ("Prejudging the 9/11 report," the Boston Globe, Dec. 21, 2002)
"US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks. . . . It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with airplanes. Then in 1999 a US national intelligence council report noted that "al-Qaida suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House." -- former British environment minister Michael Meacher, ("This War on Terrorism is Bogus," The Guardian, Sept. 6, 2003)
"If you were to tell me that two years after the murder of my husband that we wouldn't have one question answered, I wouldn't believe it." -- Kristen Breitweiser ("911 Chair: Attack Was Preventable," CBS News, Dec.18, 2003)
"We spent $100 million on Whitewater. Only $3 million has been spent on investigating September 11! It's not about 'getting Bush' -- I'm no fan of Bill Clinton either! In a democracy it's always about us -- and what we're willing to let people get away with." -- David Potorti, author of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, ("Building a War Machine on the Back of Victims," Pulse of the Twin Cities, Dec. 10, 2003)
"Delusions" regarding 9/11 aside, there are countless examples of what happens when anyone questions the official story, as well as what citizens are "willing to let people get away with." So much so, it seems, that when George W. Bush advised that we should "never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th," many pundits seemed to think that meant we shouldn't tolerate any diversion from the official script -- and should attack anyone else who dares question anything.
Even so, speculating that "Bush knew" about Sept. 11 or Saddam's whereabouts or the real reason we went to war in Iraq (or anything else right-wingers deem "off limits") is akin to wearing a huge "kick me" sign amidst a gaggle of Bush-backing bullies. And as Sept. 11 families spokesman David Potorti pointed out, this is not about "getting Bush" or even a matter of Democrats versus Republicans, but about uncovering truth and preserving democracy.
Considering the ferocity of pundits' attacks, however, truth and democracy are precious commodities. Blessed be those who try to protect both.
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Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
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