In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in July explored the double standards regarding “freedom” in the Middle East, exposed new evidence on the 1980 October Surprise mystery, examined the spread of right-wing extremism, and more.

Neocons Want War and More War” by Robert Parry, noting how the war drums keep beating. (July 2, 2011)

A July Fourth Shame on the Founders” by Ray McGovern, a first-hand look at suppressing a protest over Gaza. (July 2, 2011)

Afghan War Data Hit ‘Surge’ Success” by Gareth Porter, comparing facts to Gen. Petraeus’s claims. (July 5, 2011)

Gaza and a Liturgy for Justice” by Ray McGovern, telling what drove protesters to challenge Israel’s Gaza blockade. (July 8, 2011)

Putting Torturers Above the Law” by Marjorie Cohn, citing the gap between U.S. rhetoric and action on war crimes. (July 9, 2011)

Bachmann’s Aide Hides $10M Secret” by Robert Parry, asking why a GOP campaign operative chief isn’t asked about an illegal donation from a foreign dictator. (July 10, 2011)

Blockades from Boston to Gaza” by Nima Shirazi, comparing reactions to the 1774 blockade of Boston to today’s of Gaza. (July 12, 2011)

Inside the October Surprise Cover-up” by Robert Parry, examining Bush Sr.’s White House records about 1980 mystery. (July 12, 2011)

October Surprise Evidence Surfaces” by Robert Parry, disclosing proof of what Republicans knew of a secret trip. (July 14, 2011)

Where Rachel Maddow Dares Not Tread” by Daniel C. Maguire, noting a Middle East blind spot. (July 15, 2011)

Neocons Fume over US Boat to Gaza” by Ray McGovern on the defenders of the Israeli blockade. (July 16, 2011)

The Slaughter in Norway” by Robert Parry, pointing out a grim consequence of anti-Muslim bigotry. (July 24, 2011)

The Christian Right’s Rigid Politics” by Richard L. Fricker, describing the problem of fundamentalism. (July 25, 2011)

Audaciously Sailing on with Hope” by Israeli-born Hagit Borer, giving her reasons for aiding Gaza. (July 26, 2011)

Who Commits Terrorism?” by Robert Parry, exploring how the terror labels gets applied. (July 27, 2011)

The Big Fat GOP Lie” by Sam Parry, dissecting the Republican denial about no “revenue crisis.” (July 29, 2011)

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for book sales, we depend solely on the support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our account, which is named “consortnew@aol.com.”).

For a donation of $100, we will send you a gift, autographed copy of Neck Deep (or another book by Robert Parry, either Lost History or Secrecy & Privilege or Don North’s DVD “Yesterday’s Enemies” just tell us your choice).

Thanks for your support.

 

 




Real Plans for Putting People to Work

Ironically, just as government-spurred technology opened up prospects of greater wealth for all, an anti-government movement took hold, making sure most benefits went to the rich while leaving millions unemployed and the economy a wreck. Michael Winship lists ideas for putting some jobless back to work.

By Michael Winship

I like to ask friends about the oddest summer job they ever had.

One talks about how he used to don a rubber suit every morning at a Sylvania electronics plant in Syracuse, New York, and climb into a tank, where he dipped television tubes into some sort of mercury solution. He now moonlights as a thermometer.

Another spent a summer walking from floor to floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. His job was to take a long stick and un-jam the mail chute that ran alongside the elevator banks from the highest floor of the building to the bottom.

When he reached the basement, he took the elevator back to the top and started all over again, a Sisyphean postman.

A third worked in a factory that canned orange juice concentrate. In the process of filtering for impurities, the pulp was removed from the juice.

But lots of people insisted on the authentic taste and texture of pulp in their o.j., so my friend’s job was to sit with an ice pick and an enormous frozen block of pulp. As cans of concentrate came by on a conveyor belt, he’d chip off a bit and throw it in.

Much of that kind of summer work doesn’t exist these days for teenagers or anyone else, not only because of our snail-like jobless recovery, but also the simple reality that technology has kissed goodbye to so many of our relatively mindless, rote occupations.

My first college summer job was working at The New Republic magazine, where I was in charge of compiling the publication’s semi-annual index, a deadly duty that required a typewriter and piles of index cards on which were noted subjects, authors, dates, etc.

I then spent several days taping them onto long sheets of legal paper which were shipped off to the printer. My first published work.

Today, computers compile and collate that kind of data in nanoseconds. Good for them and us, I guess, but at least it was a job when I needed one.

Technology, outsourcing, the colossal economic meltdown of 2008 — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June, there were 4.5 out-of-work men and women for every available job.

That’s down slightly from 4.6 to 1 in May, but “still extremely high,” reported Heidi Shierholz of the progressive Economic Policy Institute. “June marks two-and-a-half years straight that the job seeker’s ratio has been substantially above 4-to-1… [That means] for three out of four unemployed workers, there are simply no jobs.”

She continues, “Unfortunately, instead of helping the unemployment situation, the debt ceiling deal will slow growth and make joblessness worse.”

Gene Robinson of The Washington Post concurs and adds: “The Republican solution has been to eliminate jobs rather than create them. Last month, the economy added 117,000 jobs — a performance so weak that unemployment changed little.

“The private sector actually added 154,000 jobs, but the public sector lost 37,000 jobs as Republicans continue to impose an austerity program at an inopportune moment.”

Republican House members even oppose House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson’s proposal to set up a joint select committee on job creation, with representatives from both parties, similar to the new, debt deal super-committee that’s supposed to carve at least $1.2 trillion out of the deficit.

(Hard to believe Capitol Hill could ever resist creating yet another committee but go figure.)

Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman says it “sounds like a scheme for more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ government spending,” but as Gene Robinson noted, “The GOP seems to believe that a federal, state or local job somehow isn’t a ‘real’ job. I’ll bet most Americans know otherwise.”

Because there actually are lots of solid proposals beyond the Republicans’ broken record of more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, deregulation and continued exploitation of fossil fuels — “their mantra,” as Wall Street exec and former Treasury official Steven Rattner writes, of “repeal and retrenchment, devoid of new initiatives or a positive agenda.”

There are jobs to be had, jobs for the creating, even good ones, if Washington can just pull its head out of … the hole it’s dug for itself.

But just as a starting point of reference, for all the GOP denigration of TARP, actions by the Federal Reserve and the Obama stimulus, according to a recent report issued by the non-partisan policy group Demos, “It’s important to remember that we dodged a far more lethal bullet.

“The Great Recession could have turned into another Great Depression. The fact that it did not is attributable to the federal government’s forceful macroeconomic intervention in late 2008 and early 2009.

“Economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi (one a former Clinton appointee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the other a former economic advisor to Senator John McCain) have estimated that the nation’s unemployment rate would have reached 16 percent rather than its actual 10.1 percent in the absence of this intervention.”

The report, “Back to Work: A Public Jobs Proposal for Economic Recovery,” written by Rutgers law and economics professor Philip Harvey, recommends an approach that “doesn’t require us to wait for the economy to recover in order to put people back to work.

“It puts people back to work as a way of nourishing the recovery. It’s a strategy for producing a job-led recovery rather than the jobless recovery we have been experiencing so far.

“The recovery strategy … is conceptually simple: Create jobs for the unemployed directly and immediately in public employment programs that produce useful goods and services for the public’s benefit.

“What this does for the unemployed is obvious. They get decent work while they wait for the recession to run its course. … Benefits delivered … trickle up to the private sector, inducing private sector job creation that supplements the immediate employment effect of the job creation program itself.”

A million temporary jobs in a federally administered, direct jobs creation program — jobs in childcare, eldercare, education, public health and housing, construction and maintenance, recreation and the arts. And as many as 414,000 jobs created outside the program.

Annual cost in program spending: $46.4 billion. Actual net cost, taking into account revenues and savings: only $28.6 billion. How? For a fuller explanation, you can read the complete Demos report at: http://www.demos.org/pubs/BackToWork.pdf. (Full disclosure: I’m a fellow at Demos.)

By the way, Harvey adds, “We currently need about 8.2 million more jobs to reduce the nation’s unemployment rate to 4.5%. Creating that many jobs in a program like the one described … would require a net increase in federal spending of about $235 billion during the first year. …

“If the Bush-era tax cuts had been allowed to expire at the end of 2010, the federal government would have collected about $295 billion in additional revenue during 2011. This would have been more than enough to cover the cost of the job program.”

Aspects of the report’s proposals are mirrored by legislation soon to be introduced by Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky — the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act.

Over two years, her plan would cost $227 billion and would be paid for by tax increases for those earning more than $1 million and $1 billion, closing corporate tax loopholes and ending subsidies for big oil. She says such programs as a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, a Community Corps, and the Neighborhood Heroes Corps, among other such New Deal-echoing creations, would create 2.2 million jobs and decrease unemployment by 1.3 percent.

Before you uncase your dueling pistols or put quill to parchment in an angry letter to the Times, for those of the right and center who seethe that Rep. Schakowsky’s plan veers too close to the days of FDR or even the sunny side of Bolshevism, there’s also a proposal floating about from the Alliance of American Manufacturing, a coalition of leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers, that focuses on private sector job creation. One manufacturing job, they say, supports four or five others.

Among its provisions, according to AAM’s executive director Scott N. Paul: a national infrastructure bank leveraging capital for transportation and energy projects (a similar proposal is favored by President Obama); reshaping the tax code “in a revenue neutral way to provide incentives for job creation and investment,” including R&D tax credits and lower tax rates for manufacturing in America; “buy America” provisions for all federal spending; expediting small business loans; and shifting “some education investment to rebuilding our vocational and technical skills.”

I especially like this one: “Kick any CEO off of federal advisory boards or jobs councils who has: (1) not created net new American jobs over the past five years, or (2) is expanding the company’s foreign workforce at a faster rate than its domestic workforce. Replace them with CEOs who are committed to investing in America. Shame is a good motivator.”

The President will make a major speech on jobs shortly after Labor Day. According to the Associated Press, “It is likely to include tax cuts to help the middle class, a build-up-America construction program that goes beyond any infrastructure proposal Obama has had already, and targeted help for the particularly worrisome group of people who have remained unemployed for many months in a row.”

All good, but unfortunately, if the past is any indication, what President Obama proposes will not be as bold or far-reaching as many of the ideas presented above.

It certainly won’t include my personal favorite, as suggested by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly‘s “Political Animal” blog: “Have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, and let President Obama announce he’ll gladly fund all of the Republicans’ requests that have not yet been filled.

“This is especially important when it comes to infrastructure, a sector in which GOP members have pleaded for more investment in their areas. …

“If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent?”

Why not indeed? Alas, such an idea runs smack into more deficits: a deficit of irony among Republicans, certainly, but worse, a deficit of commitment and vision from a White House which until now at least, has been more focused on the pragmatic middle, despite a gainsaying opposition that yields nothing.

Still, as Benen writes, “When Republicans say ‘no jobs, no way,’ at least the nation will be able to see where both parties stand, and then choose accordingly next year.” Amen.

Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of “Bill Moyers Journal” on PBS.




The Myopic Madness of the GOP

Pretty much the entire field of Republican presidential candidates embraces hostility toward the federal government, driven either by religious fervor or a belief in unregulated capitalism. The GOP hopefuls are appealing to a large subset of the U.S. population that resents the modern world and the lessons of history, as Lawrence Davidson notes.

By Lawrence Davidson

A phenomenon that I call “natural localism” concentrates most people’s attention to the limited geographical area within which they live, work and study.

Inside their local zone, people can have first-hand knowledge, but they are also led (again quite naturally) to conform their views to those of their neighbors, their friends, their fellow workers, their religious congregations, etc.

In many of these categories, there will be personalities who stand out as leaders and they often have great influence in shaping the perceptions of local populations.

Beyond their local zone most people know little of what is real. Many folks are simply indifferent to the world beyond their own personal sphere.

And, most of those who might periodically become interested in what is happening on the other side of the hill, will tend to go with the opinions of their community leaders and, of course, the mass media.

The United States certainly suffers from the drawbacks of “natural localism” and sometimes the consequences are extreme.

You can see it in the periodic xenophobia that shapes the perceptions of local groups when it comes to migrant workers and immigration in general. You can see it in the periodic episodes of resurgent racism, as in the present case of Islamophobia.

But perhaps the most startling extreme expression of this phenomenon is the full-blown fear, suspicion and even hatred of the federal government by up to 20 percent of the American population. This extreme “natural localism” is expressed by a demand that the federal government go away and leave everyone alone.

There should be no taxes, no regulatory agencies, no social programs, no Internal Revenue Service and the like. In fact, within this scenario the only federal government activities that are sacrosanct are the military and the courts. All other responsibilities can be jettisoned.

If all these myopic extremists, born and bred to “natural localism,” lived in one state, they would no doubt want to secede from the Union. And personally I would be glad to see “the erring sisters go in peace” (to quote Horace Greeley). Unfortunately, they are too scattered about for this, particularly in the South, Midwest and Southwest.

These individuals also have found ways to assert the primacy of their quite limited worldview. A few have taken to murderous violence, though the numbers are surprisingly small given this group asserts the sanctity of gun ownership and is armed to the teeth.

More generally they have settled on the tactic of participating in the very politics they scorn so as to accomplish an end run into enemy territory. If and when their leaders gain high office their ultimate goal is to kill off large parts of the federal government — from the inside.

To this end the myopic extremists have infiltrated and transformed the Republican Party. If we take a look at the candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination, all of them want to radically downsize the federal government.

Some take this stand because they believe God has told them to do so. For example, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who recently won the Iowa straw poll, sees herself fighting on the side of the angels.

With a pseudo law degree from Oral Roberts University, she has been taught that “God grants certain authority to government, the Church and the family … and if the government infringes on those rights by exceeding the authority it was granted by God, then that’s tyranny.”

Bachmann was also taught at Oral Roberts that one must seek to institute “biblical law over man’s law in jurisprudence and in politics.” That is what she is out to do.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a pseudo-prophet and a George W. Bush want-to-be, is of the same mind. Also probably fitting in this category is Rick “marriage is our ultimate homeland security” Santorum.

Then there are those who do not rely on religion but rather push a historically bankrupt philosophy of unregulated capitalism. Here we find folks like Newt “the invention of beach volleyball is what freedom is all about” Gingrich, Mitt “corporations are people too” Romney and others.

Actually, the only one of these presidential hopefuls who is, partially, in his right mind is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. His strong desire to end the wars in the Middle East is absolutely sane, but move the discussion into domestic politics/economics and he becomes as nonsensical as the rest of the Republican field.

Behind this cadre is a hinterland of people whose perceptual capacities are dangerously narrow. These are the people who are mesmerized by right-wing talk radio and the preaching of Christian right-wing ministers. They are mostly white, mostly middle-aged and publicly identify themselves as conservatives.

Again, we are probably talking about 15 to 20 percent  of the U.S. population. Many of them are “Tea Party” members. But the “tea-sters” are just the angry tip of the iceberg. There is an additional quiet but supportive group who sympathize with these radicals. This runs to about 32 percent of the adult population.

One might think that one-fifth to one-third of those qualified to vote is a far cry from a governing majority, but that would be a mistake.

For the last 50 years, the voter turnout in federal elections has averaged about 47.5 percent with individual elections ranging from 36.4 to 63.1 percent. Given these low turnout numbers, smaller groups, which are well organized and motivated, can run away with an election.

What these myopic extremists do not know, or chose not to believe, can hurt us all. If they take over the federal government (and, if you have not noticed, they now control the House of Representatives), things like environmental regulations, health and safety regulations, banking and other fiscal regulations, Medicare and Medicaid, and even Social Security are all in mortal jeopardy.

The consequences will make the corruption of the 19th Century’s Gilded Age look like child’s play. And, assuming Ron Paul does not win in this fray, our new potential leaders have all indicated that they will once more take up the standard of George W. Bush and possibly lead us into war with Iran.

Where will they get the money for that? Not from taxation! Not from running a deficit! They hate such things. Well, they are ideologically against Social Security. It has a sizable reserve fund. Maybe they will rob that.

What Bachmann et. al. have done is to mistake their narrow range of vision for either God’s universe or some form of holy ideology. Having done so, all who can see farther than they can become idolaters against whom a crusade must be waged.

There is no speaking sweet reason to people on a holy crusade. If you think you can negotiate with them and come to some sort of compromise, just take a look at President Barack Obama’s experience dealing with the House of Representatives during the debt crisis.

But aren’t there ways for people and communities to by-pass “natural localness” and see the world in a more cosmopolitan way? The answer, at least potentially, happens to be yes.

One of the longstanding aids with potential in this area is the public school system. It is quite possible to teach awareness of other cultures, other religions, other economic ideologies, other forms of government, etc. and instill in our children tolerance for that which is different. It takes teaching tolerance from K-to-12 consistently over generations to do this, but it is possible.

But guess what! The myopic extremists are suspicious of public education and much more enthusiastic about “home schooling.” They think public schools are brainwashing their children and in a certain sense they are right.

One of the purposes of education within the nation state context is to produce good citizens. But for the myopic crowd that means loyalty to an unholy political system and the federal government. They have plans to change that.

You can add federal aid to education to that long list of things that will disappear once the extreme right truly has its way.

In the end, the best prevention against these people is to motivate the rest of the voting population to actually turn out at the polls and elect sane alternative candidates.

As the development of third parties seems a non-starter in America, it is up to the Democratic Party to supply those alternative candidates and to work up the necessary motivation.

Can the Democrats do this? I am afraid the hard truth is, it ain’t a sure thing.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




Lemmingly, We Roll Along

Exclusive: When soldiers die, the politicians who sent them to their deaths typically use euphemisms, words like “fallen” or “ultimate sacrifice.” On one level, the avoidance of blunt language may be seen as a sign of respect, but on another, it is just one more evasion of responsibility, as Ray McGovern notes.

By Ray McGovern

There has been unusually wide (and for the most part supportive) reaction to my article of Aug, 7 on Afghanistan, “More U.S. Soldiers Die in Vain,” which was picked up by other websites as well.

One comment described a cartoon and struck me as particularly, if sadly, apt: “Two lemmings were chatting while standing in the line to the cliff. One says to the other, ‘Of course we have to go over the edge. Anything else would dishonor all the lemmings that have gone before us.’”

And so it goes, thought I, with our Lemming-in-Chief (LIC) Barack Obama and those who lemmingly follow him.

The President’s and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s words about the 30 dead soldiers, including members of the elite Seal Team 6, were carefully chosen, but bore the telltale earmarks of “the Lemming Syndrome.”

“We will honor the fallen by showing our unyielding determination to press ahead to move forward with the hard work,” said Panetta on Aug. 8.

President Obama also stressed how “our troops will continue the hard work. We will press on.” There was also much talk about how the troops were “lost.”

Gosh, I thought, I did not know that the 30 U.S. troops were just “lost” or that they had simply “fallen.” Sounds like maybe we can still find them and help them get up when the hard truth is that they’re dead.

Frequent references to the helicopter having “crashed” also played down the details of why the troops had “fallen.” I thought I’d read somewhere that the helicopter “crashed” because it was shot down by folks who do not like American troops making middle-of-the-night raids all over their country.

These unhappy folks are usually described as “militants” or, in a sad reflection on the primitive level of the war discussion in the U.S. news media, simply as “bad guys.”

Perhaps others of my (Vietnam) generation are hearing what I hear, the plaintive lyrics of the song, “When Will They Ever Learn?” More descriptive of such times, then and now, are the words Pete Seeger put to music during a large lemming infestation 44 years ago: “We were neck-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on.” Pete Seeger, 1967

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. An Army Infantry/Intelligence officer in the early Sixties, he then serves as an analyst of the CIA for 27 years.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




The World at a Tipping Point

America and the world seem precariously balanced between those who wish to deny the many problems facing mankind and those who insist that the human race address the multiple crises confronting the planet. Winslow Myers sees reason to hope that the world will tip in a positive direction.

By Winslow Myers

The brilliance of the “Mad Men” television series lies in the crackerjack acting and script, but even more in the way the series dramatizes the paradigm shift of American women from gross subjugation to rough equality.

In an early episode, protagonist Don Draper reluctantly allows his wife to consult a (male) psychiatrist, and then calls the doctor, who casually violates confidentiality.

The series explains much about how the males of my generation often haplessly misunderstood — or deliberately ignored — the autonomous subjectivity of females.

This begs two questions: what blindnesses operating in the present cultural moment might be illuminated by talented scriptwriters as they look back from the perspective of 2040?

And second, what is the vision that orients us as we work to ensure that there will be a future to look back from in 2040?

American politics in 2011, in the run-up to the next presidential election, seems to operate in a weird bubble of denial, the engine of which is politicians pandering for votes. No one gets to be a President or Senator by emphasizing such unvarnished truths as:

–Oil and coal companies exercise too much power to slow or prevent altogether an incentivized transition to clean and sustainable forms of energy generation.

–People of wealth and large corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, and as long as Congress is in thrall to lobbyists, reform of the tax code toward simplicity, transparency and fairness will be difficult in coming.

–Some American financial institutions characterized as “too big to fail” are insufficiently regulated, making money off the misfortunes of ordinary citizens, intensifying the grotesque differences between the incomes of the super-rich and all the rest of us.

–The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are obscenely expensive stalemates that have not increased our security, and may have created more terrorists than they have killed.

–Nuclear weapons have become completely useless as instruments of deterrence.

–The U.S. defense budget is bloated and lacks accountability.

–Global climate instability is clearly being intensified, if not caused, by human activity.

–The U.S. military is the biggest user of fossil fuels and polluter in the world, even as it plans to fight wars caused by the same extreme climate events that are presently intensifying chaos and dislocation for millions.

–The debt ceiling of nations may be negotiated or engineered, but the debt that comes from the unsustainable assault of too many humans on the living systems of the Earth is non-negotiable.

Coral reefs are dying; the oceans are polluted with plastic; many fish species have been harvested almost to extinction; tropical rain forests are still being put to the torch or the saw; polar icecaps and mountain glaciers continue to melt at faster than expected rates.

But there is good news also, about which we also do not hear enough from our candidates:

–There are millions of non-governmental organizations springing up around the world that agree upon the values of human rights for all, eco-sustainability, nonviolence, and democratic structures,the largest mass movement in history, says entrepreneur and ethicist Paul Hawken.

One important new organization is Awakening the Dreamer, which offers citizens a free half-day seminar that awakens us to the real challenges we face,and the real possibility of meeting them.

–War just might be a dying institution. Wars of decolonization or proxy wars between superpowers have scaled back to zero since the end of the Cold War. While still horrible, contemporary wars kill fewer civilians and soldiers than some of the conflagrations of the not-too-distant past.

Still, this optimism about war fails to include the continued presence of massive numbers of nuclear weapons, nor the ever-increasing effects of climate change upon the poorer nations, nor global population growth, nor the unpredictable element in current events.

New World

We find ourselves waking up in a whole new world, where rich and poor occupy the same leaky boat in a polluted sea.

Ensuring the future requires a fundamental shift in thinking from “I am separate” to “We are one”,a paradigm shift from measuring our economic success quantitatively to finding new qualitative criteria.

From turning reflexively toward war to moving aggressively to prevent war. From grotesquely large military budgets to humanitarian aid that directly meets human needs. From candidates who deny global warming to candidates who advocate for a reorientation of priorities on the level of a planetary Marshall Plan.

None of this will happen unless we all get involved, and push and question and become an active force that leaders cannot ignore.

This is the time when candidates are spending the most time listening to ordinary citizens. The questions we ask can be powerful agents of a new awakening.

If that came to pass, we might someday enjoy a TV series that looked back through the decades to dramatize the gradual end of our delusions.

It might make us wince at the “windy militant trash” (Auden) of present political discourse just as we wince at the dated chauvinism of the “Mad Men” era, but we might also be celebrating how far we had come.

Meanwhile we have a long way to go, baby.

Winslow Myers, the author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide, serves on the Board of Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org), a non-profit educational foundation whose mission is to explore, model and promote the means for humanity to live without war.




Truth Still a Casualty at Dieppe

Special Report: Sixty-nine years ago, British commanders dispatched mostly Canadian troops on a raid against German coastal defenses at the French city of Dieppe. The attack was a fiasco, losing more than half the landing force, but well-connected British officers spun the defeat into a P.R. victory, writes Don North.

By Don North

In many World War II history books, the reassuring story about the Allies’ raid on the French port of Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942 which saw entire units of Canadian troops decimated by German fire is that it provided valuable lessons about amphibious tactics that turned the later Normandy invasion into a success.

But now 69 years later, a closer reading of the historical record makes clear that the disaster at Dieppe was less a learning experience on how to conduct amphibious assaults than a template for how to spin a debacle, to protect the reputations of powerful military and political figures.

The principal architect of the Dieppe fiasco was Lord Louis Mountbatten, a close relative of the British Royal family and a favorite of Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had appointed him to the important post of Chief of Combined Services.

Known to his friends as “Dickie,” Mountbatten was famous for his vanity and unbridled ambition. It was often said of him that the truth, in his hands, was swiftly converted from what it was to what it should have been.

With Churchill’s blessing, Mountbatten pushed through the Dieppe raid over the objections of many officers in the Allied military establishment who felt it was ill-advised.

Given the fact that British and other Allied troops had barely escaped from Dunkirk two years earlier, the idea of landing the mostly Canadian force on the beaches of Dieppe, have them destroy some German coastal defenses, hold the town for two tides, and then withdraw might indeed have seemed rather foolhardy.

But Mountbatten pushed for the raid as a dramatic blow against the Germans whose forces had shifted east to strike at the Soviet Union.

The landing at Dieppe about 100 miles east of the D-Day beaches of Normandy would be the first large-scale daylight assault on a strongly held objective in Europe. It also would be the greatest amphibious landing since Gallipolli during World War I another bloody disaster and it would be the first time in history tanks would land on beaches held by the enemy.

But Dieppe was to be another first as well. It would be the first big propaganda exercise of modern warfare. At the time, military-public relations were a newfangled notion, foreign to most senior British and Canadian officers.

However Lord Mountbatten’s eager P.R. team took an opportunistic view. Included on his staff were two American publicists from Hollywood, Major Jock Lawrence and Lt. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., son of the film star.

Twenty-one war correspondents and photographers were allowed to accompany the raid. What they in fact witnessed was a tragic and costly fiasco. What they wrote, after their copy was vetted by Mountbatten’s censors, was largely fiction.

For instance, the Toronto Star’s headline on the first news of the raid on Aug. 22 read: “LIKE FIREWORKS SAYS ROYAL’S SERGEANT OF BATTLE AT DIEPPE.“

The story then added: “In the grimmest and fiercest operation of the war since British troops swarmed out of Dunkirk, the Canadians’ assaulting Dieppe gave the German elite coastal defensemen a sample of the courage the Dominion’s fighting men display when they are assigned to battle.”

Years later, Mountbatten himself would frame the more pleasing conventional wisdom about Dieppe, declaring: “I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man who died in Dieppe, at least 10 more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944.”

Mountbatten’s self-serving analysis has remained a common lens through which to see the Dieppe raid, putting a rosy glow around the horrific losses. More than half the landing force was killed, wounded or captured without accomplishing a single major objective.

The late British historian Robin Neillands was one who cut through the propaganda that has fogged a clear understanding of the Dieppe fiasco. In his 2005 book, The Dieppe Raid, Neillands wrote, “Many of the lessons of Dieppe were quite fundamental, there was no need to learn them again at such a terrible cost.

“The Dieppe commanders failed to remember that loyalty should flow down as well as up; their loyalty was due to the nameless soldiers in the landing craft as much as to their superiors and dictates of the Service.

“There were people dying on those stony beaches; they deserved better of their commanders. Those who seek glory in war will not find it on the beaches of Dieppe. Those who seek tales of valour need look no further.”

Neillands concluded: “When the Canadians and the Royal Marine Commandos went ashore, they were going to their deaths — and most of them probably realized that fact as their landing craft took them into the assault.”

Two of the Attackers

I learned the truth of Dieppe from two veterans of the Canadian Royal Regiment who landed at “Blue Beach” that fateful August morning. Private Roy Jacques first told me the real story:

“There were 5,000 of us from the 2nd Canadian Division, 1,000 British commandos and 50 U.S. Army Rangers. In less than ten hours battle, after hitting the beach, 1,380 of us had been killed. I was captured along with 2,000 others, mostly wounded by the Germans, and spent the rest of the war at Stalag Stargard.”

(Jacques survived the war and later became a respected journalist and news director of CKWX in Vancouver.)

Another veteran of Dieppe was Private Joe Ryan of Toronto, also of the Royal Regiment. In 2007, I accompanied him for a return trip to Dieppe for the 65th anniversary of the landing.

As we walked the landing beach and visited the Canadian cemetery, he told me: “That’s my beach, Don. The tide was about the same as it is now when we ran across those damn rocks tripping and falling. See that old German pillbox is still there overgrown with weeds.”

In the cemetery, Ryan pointed and said, “There’s the grave of my signalman. Rolly Ward and I hit the beach together, but Rolly didn’t get up again. I took his watch and brought it back to his mother who never did believe he had been killed at Dieppe.”

Ross Munro of the Canadian Press had been in the same landing craft as Ryan but did not venture onto the beach where piles of the dead were mounting. Ryan expressed disdain for Munro and the other journalists.

“Those newsmen were drunken bastards and we wouldn’t have anything to do with them,” Ryan said. “Munro was a coward who never left the landing craft.”

I tried to convince Ryan that Munro had a good view of the embattled beach from the landing craft and was able to survive and return to England with his eyewitness story, which he could not have done if killed or captured by the Germans.

However, Munro and the other reporters were subject to draconian censorship by Mountbatten’s command and their published reports bore little resemblance to the facts on the bloody beaches. (Munro was author of the Toronto Star article cited above.)

Breaking P.R. Ground

While Mountbatten’s battle plan at Dieppe proved woefully inept, his P.R. plan was groundbreaking, even anticipating how to spin failure before the raid began.

Proof that Mountbatten’s command planned to use Dieppe as propaganda whatever happened on the beaches can be found in the Combined Operations files in the archives at Kew near London.

Using the code name for the Dieppe raid, a memorandum entitled “Jubilee Communiqué Meeting” makes clear that Mountbatten planned to cite “lessons learned” before any were actually learned:

“In case the raid is unsuccessful the same basic principles must hold.

1.  We cannot call such a large-scale operation a ‘reconnaissance raid.’

2.  We cannot avoid stating the general composition of the force, since the enemy will know it and make capital of our losses and of any failure of the first effort of Canadian and U.S. troops.

3.  Therefore, in the event of failure, the communiqué must then stress the success of the operation as an essential test in the employment of substantial forces and equipment.

4.  We then lay extremely heavy stress on stories of personal heroism — through interviews, broadcasts, etc. — in order to focus public attention on bravery rather than objectives not attained.”

The press releases, which were issued following the raid, followed Mountbatten’s P.R. prescription almost verbatim. “Vital experience has been gained in the employment of substantial numbers of troops in an assault, and in the transport of heavy equipment,” one communiqué read.

Classified papers in the British archives released 30 years after the battle show that

Mountbatten may have even duped Churchill and his War cabinet into believing Dieppe was a success. One report from Mountbatten read:

“The raid had gone off very satisfactorily. The planning had been excellent, air support faultless, and naval losses extremely light. Of the 6,000 men involved, two thirds returned to Britain and all I have seen are in great form.”

The actual fate of the invasion force wasn’t so cheery. Historical records show that 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were killed, wounded or captured a loss rate of almost 60 percent.

Mountbatten even convinced Churchill to replace his original critical account of the raid in his war history, The Hinge of Fate, with a more positive one written by Mountbatten himself, according to Brian Loring Villa, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa who wrote Unauthorized Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid.

In 1974, in a speech to British war veterans, Mountbatten even accused the Canadians of changing his original plan to a frontal attack, Villa reported.

Throughout his life, Lord Mountbatten continued to work assiduously to enhance his place in history, especially regarding his leadership of the Dieppe raid. Despite some dissenting voices, he was largely successful, or at least he spared himself from any searing condemnation.

[In 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in a bombing of his fishing boat off the coast of Ireland.]

Few Regrets

For his part, war correspondent Ross Munro went home to Canada after the war to become the Editor of the Vancouver Sun. He had few regrets about how his intrepid war reporting was so distorted by Mountbatten and Churchill’s censors:

“You get very deft and skilled at telling the story honestly and validly despite the censorship. I never really felt, except maybe on the Dieppe raid, that I was really cheating the public at home.”

Three years after the war ended, without the interference of censorship, Munro wrote a book Gauntlet to Overlord, in which he described the Dieppe landing from his perch aboard the ship that had also carried Private Joe Ryan to the beaches of Dieppe:

“They plunged into about two feet of water and machine-gun bullets laced into them. Bodies piled up on the ramp. Some staggered to the beach and fell.

“Looking out the open bow over the bodies on the ramp, I saw the slope leading up to a stone wall littered with Royal casualties. They had been cut down before they had a chance to fire a shot.

“It was brutal and terrible and shocked you almost to insensibility to see the piles of dead and feel the hopelessness of the attack at this point. The beach was khaki-coloured with the bodies of the boys from Central Ontario.”

Munro concluded that the raid was a complete tactical failure, that everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, that “looking back, it seems to me to have been an incredibly risky task with only a gambler’s chance of success.”

But Munro still bought Lord Mountbatten’s positive spin, writing that “losses must be seen in the light of valuable experience gained. The battle of D-Day was won on the beaches of Dieppe.”

In an article on the 40th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, Frank Gillard of the BBC, one of the correspondents at Dieppe, expressed regret for his coverage:

“I am almost ashamed to read my report, but it was that or nothing. It was a day of wrangling, first with one censor and then with another, until our mutilated and emasculated texts, rendered almost bland under relentless pressure, was released 24 hours after our return.

“It was all so stupidly frustrating. There was sheer folly at Dieppe, but that was at the planning level. Those who had to execute these misguided orders against impossible odds showed gallantry and heroism of the highest order.

“Given half a chance, we could have presented Dieppe in terms that would have evoked pride along with the sorrow. But P.R. handling of Dieppe was as great a disaster as the operation itself.”

German Accounts

Ironically, the Dieppe story was more accurately written from the German side.

A reporter for the Deutsche Alleghenies Zeitung, who was visiting a nearby Luftwaffe air base, wrote of the Allied assault: “As executed, the venture mocked all rules of military logic and strategy.”

Even Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Josef Goebbels, in a radio interview monitored by the BBC, sounded rational compared to British claims of victory at Dieppe, assertions that Goebbels correctly mocked as propaganda:

“We have no doubt it is possible with this kind of news reporting to deceive and lead astray one’s own nation for a time, but we do doubt that one can alter any of the facts by such methods.”

Later, American author Quentin Reynolds, who covered the Dieppe raid for Colliers Magazine, explained some of the thinking inside the Allied press corps:

“The correspondents of the Second World War were a curious, crazy, yet responsible crew. For the sake of the war effort, and because the war against Hitler was considered a just one, they did what was required of them.”

Still, today’s murky judgment about Dieppe is summed up at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, where a citation on the wall says: “Some insist that the lessons learned at Dieppe contributed to the success of later allied landings including Normandy. Others insist that the raid was poorly planned and an avoidable blunder.”

But the larger problem about this imprecise narrative is that history is to the human race what reason is to the individual. Both extend our ability to think past the narrow present, and if they are distorted for whatever reason future misjudgements are invited.

Truth can often be painful, especially for the foot soldiers and their loved ones who wish to cling to the positive spin of terrible events. My friends Roy Jacques and Joe Ryan went to their graves last year comforted by Mountbatten’s false claim that those who fought and died at Dieppe paved the way for victory at Normandy two years later.

They can be forgiven, as can be the relatives and friends of those who died at Dieppe who desperately searched for meaning in the sacrifice and loss. It can take great personal courage to make hard and truthful judgments in wartime.

When I visited the Canadian cemetery, Alain Menue of the Dieppe memorial association, moved among the grave stones marked with a maple leaf and the date August 19, 1942, laying wreaths and flowers:

“We in Dieppe remember their sacrifice. Even though there are few lines now in the history books about the battle. It is important to remember the defeats as well as the victories.”

Cautionary Tale

In that sense, Dieppe is a cautionary tale against false patriotism. Glorified history can make war more palatable to the public, which can encourage its use again, often too readily and without regard to the real human consequences.

One lesson that today’s readers can extract from the actual history of Dieppe is to read news articles about war with a measure of skepticism and to understand that the powerful will do what they can to spare themselves from accountability for their miscalculations and hubris.

Though there is no draconian censorship of war news from Afghanistan, for instance, there is still pressure on reporters and news organizations to put the best face on events, not to be too negative.

There also is a desire to give some positive meaning to the Afghan War and the parallel conflict in Iraq, to argue that the more than 6,000 American troops and their “coalition” partners who have died did not die in vain.

But sometimes the sacrifice of these soldiers is more to advance or protect the reputations of political and military leaders than anything else.

Perhaps British poet Rudyard Kipling put it best in writing about another pointless military mission in World War I, where his own son perished: “If any question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied.”

In eulogies to fallen soldiers, there is a tendency to mark unnecessary deaths as justification for still more unnecessary deaths. Meanwhile, from senior military leaders like General David Petraeus, former U.S. commander in Afghanistan and Iraq now elevated to CIA director we hear the mantra, “there is progress in Afghanistan.”

So far this August, 50 Americans have died in Afghanistan, including 30 from the crash of a Chinook helicopter. And the rate of suicides among veterans is also at epidemic levels.

Dieppe was a case of deceitful manipulation of the press into reporting a defeat as a victory. In Afghanistan today, however, it is more a case of American journalists being almost absent from the war. With few exceptions, those who are present are covering the war the way the U.S. government presents it to them.

Last week, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard issued a report noting that “the war without end is a war with hardly any news coverage” and adding:

“TV coverage averages 21 seconds per newscast. One critic quoted says the lack of sustained American TV reporting of Afghanistan is the most irresponsible behavior in all the annals of war journalism.”

The lesson from Dieppe may be that if the “first rough draft of history” as reported in the news media is distorted, it can live on indefinitely unless there is aggressive scholarship to counter it. The question from America’s open-ended wars after the 9/11 attacks may be: what happens when journalists are not even there to write the first draft?

Don North, who was born in Canada, has been a war reporter since covering Vietnam beginning in 1965. North has known and interviewed dozens of veterans of the Dieppe raid and researched it in the British and Canadian war archives. This article is based on a chapter from the manuscript of his book Inappropriate Conduct which deals with war reporting in World War II.

 




Pakistan Demands Veto on Drone Strikes

The U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 aroused anger in Pakistan over unilateral American military actions. But bilateral tensions have been growing for years over U.S. drone strikes against Pakistani targets and have now reached a crisis stage, reports Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service.

 By Gareth Porter

Pakistani civilian and military leaders are insisting on an effective veto over which targets U.S. drone strikes hit, according to well-informed Pakistani military sources.

The sources, who met with IPS on condition that they not be identified, said that such veto power over the conduct of the drone war is a central element in a new Pakistani demand for a formal government-to-government agreement on the terms under which the United States and Pakistan will cooperate against insurgents in Pakistan.

The basic government-to-government agreement now being demanded would be followed, the sources said, by more detailed agreements between U.S. and Pakistani military leaders and intelligence agencies.

The new Pakistani demand for equal say over drone strikes marks the culmination of a long evolution in the Pakistani military’s attitude toward the drone war.

Initially supportive of strikes that were targeting Al-Qaeda leaders, senior Pakistani military leaders soon came to realize that the drone war carried serious risks for Pakistan’s war against the Pakistani Taliban.

A key turning point in the attitude of the military was the unilateral U.S. decision to focus the drone war on those Pakistani insurgents who had already decided to make peace with the Pakistani government and who opposed the war being waged by Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani military.

The Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to run the drone war almost completely unilaterally for years, according to former Pakistani military leaders and diplomats, and the Pakistani military has only mustered the political will to challenge the U.S. power to carry out drone strikes unilaterally in recent months.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf allowed the drone strikes from 2004 to 2007 in order to ensure political support from the George W. Bush administration, something Musharraf had been denied during the Bill Clinton administration, according to Shamshad Ahmad, who was Pakistan’s foreign secretary and then ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 2002.

“Those were the days when we felt that we had to work with the Americans on Al-Qaeda,” recalled Gen. Asad Durrani, a former director general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), in an interview with IPS.

The choice of targets “usually was done by the U.S. unilaterally,” said Durrani. Two Pakistani generals confirmed that point in a separate interview with IPS.

The Musharraf regime even went so far as to provide cover for the drone strikes, repeatedly asserting after strikes that the explosions had been caused by the victims themselves making home-made bombs.

But that effort at transparent deception by the U.S. and Musharraf quickly fell apart when drone strikes were based on faulty intelligence and killed large numbers of civilians rather than Al- Qaeda leaders.

The worst such strike was an Oct. 30, 2006, drone attack on a madrassa in Chenagai village in Bajauer agency, which killed 82 people. Musharraf, who was primarily concerned with avoiding the charge of complicity in U.S. attacks on Pakistani targets, ordered the Pakistani military to take complete responsibility for the incident.

The spokesman for the Pakistani military claimed “confirmed intelligence reports that 70 to 80 militants were hiding in a madrassa used as a terrorist training facility” and said the Pakistani military had fired missiles at the madrassa.

But eyewitnesses in the village identified U.S. drones as the source of the attack and said all the victims were simply local students of the madrassa. Local people compiled a complete list of the names and ages of all 80 victims, showing that 25 of the dead had been aged seven to 15, which was published in the Lahore daily The News International.

Senior military officers believed the CIA had other reasons for launching the strike in Bajaur. The day before the drone attack, tribal elders in Bajaur had held a public meeting to pledge their willingness to abide by a peace accord with the government, and the government had released nine tribesmen, including some militants.

Former ISI chief Durrani recalled that the strike “effectively sabotaged the chances for an agreement” in Bejaur. That was “a very clear message” from the CIA not to enter into any more such peace agreements, Durrani told IPS.

The Bejaur madrassa strike was a turning point for many officers. “So many of us went in and said this is stupid,” Durrani recalled.

When Musharraf was pressured to step down as Army chief of staff, and was replaced by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in November 2007, the unilateral character of the CIA’s drone war “pretty much continued,” according to Gen. Jehanger Karamat, who was ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2006 after having retired as Army chief of staff in 1998.

The CIA’s drone war became more contentious in 2008, as the Bush administration concentrated the strikes on those who had made peace with the Pakistani government. Two-thirds of the drone strikes that year were on targets associated with Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Nazeer, both of whom were involved in supporting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, but who opposed attacks on the Pakistani government.

Targeting the Haqqani network and his allies posed serious risks for Pakistan. When the Pakistani Army was fighting in South Waziristan, it had its logistic base in an area that was controlled by the Haqqani group, and it had been able to count on the security of that base.

Meanwhile, ISI had given the CIA accurate information on anti-Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s location on four occasions, but the U.S. had failed to target him, according to a May 2009 column by retired Pakistani Gen. Shaukat Qadir.

In 2009, more of the drone strikes – almost 40 percent of the total – focused on the Taliban under Mehsud, and Mehsud himself was killed, which tended to mollify the Pakistani military.

But that effect did not last long. In 2010, only three strikes were aimed at Mehsud’s anti-Pakistan Taliban organization, while well over half the strikes were against Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of Haqqani who had signed an agreement with the Pakistani government in September 2006 that he would not shelter any anti-Pakistani militants.

The Barack Obama administration had made a deliberate decision around mid-2010 that it didn’t care if targeting the Haqqani network and other pro-Pakistani Taliban groups upset the Pakistanis, as the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 23, 2010.

But two events caused Pakistani army chief Kayani to demand a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward the drone war.

The first was the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis on the charge of killing two Pakistanis in cold blood in January, which was followed by intense U.S. pressure for his release.

The second was a drone strike on March 17, just one day after Davis was released, which was initially reported to have been an attack on a gathering of Haqqani network officials.

It turned out that the drone attack had killed dozens of tribal and sub-tribal elders who had gathered from all over North Waziristan to discuss an economic issue.

A former U.S. official admitted that the strike was carried out because the CIA was “angry” over the fact that Davis had been kept in prison for seven weeks. “It was retaliation for Davis,” the official said, according to an Aug. 2 Associated Press story.

That strike helped galvanize the Pakistani military leadership. ISI chief Shuja Pasha took it as a slap in the face, because he had personally intervened to get Davis out of jail. Kayani shocked the Americans by issuing the first denunciation of drone strikes by an Army chief.

When Pasha went to Washington in April, he took with him the first official Pakistani demand for an equal say in drone strike decisions.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.




Did Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Info?

Exclusive: With few exceptions like some salacious rumor about the Kennedy family  the mainstream U.S. news media has little interest in historical stories. Such was the case when an ex-White House terrorism official accused a former CIA director of withholding information that might have prevented a 9/11 attack, Ray McGovern reports. 

By Ray McGovern

Bulletin for those of you who get your information only from the New York Times, the Washington Post and other outlets of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM): Former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has accused ex-CIA Director George Tenet of denying him and others access to intelligence that could have thwarted the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.

Deliberately withholding critical intelligence from those who need it, and can act on it, is, at the least, gross dereliction of duty. 

The more so if keeping the White House promptly and fully informed is at the top of your job jar, as it was for Director of Central Intelligence Tenet. And yet that is precisely the charge Clarke has leveled at the former DCI.

In an interview aired on Aug. 11 on a local PBS affiliate in Colorado, Clarke charges that Tenet and two other senior CIA officials, Cofer Black and Richard Blee, deliberately withheld information about two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. The two had entered the United States more than a year before the 9/11 attacks.

Clarke adds that the CIA then covered it all up by keeping relevant information away from Congress and the 9/11 Commission.

Lying by senior officials is bad enough, and there is now plenty of evidence that former CIA Director George Tenet and his closest agency associates are serial offenders. Think for a minute about the falsehoods spread regarding Iraq’s non-existent WMD stockpiles.

But withholding intelligence on two of the 9/11 hijackers would have been particularly unconscionable, the epitome of malfeasance, not just misfeasance. 

That’s why Richard Clarke’s conclusion that he should have received information from CIA about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, “unless somebody intervened to stop the normal automatic distribution” amounts, in my view, to a criminal charge, given the eventual role of the two in hijacking on 9/11 of AA-77, the plane that struck the Pentagon.

Tenet has denied that the information on the two hijackers was “intentionally withheld” from Clarke, and he has enlisted the other two former CIA operatives, Cofer Black (more recently a senior official of Blackwater) and Richard Blee (an even more shadowy figure), to concur in saying, Not us; we didn’t withhold.

Whom to believe? To me, it’s a no-brainer. One would have to have been born yesterday to regard the “George is right” testimony from Black and Blee as corroborative.

Tenet’s Dubious Credibility

Tenet is the same fellow who provided the “slam dunk” on the existence of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, as well as the “artist renderings” of equally non-existent mobile laboratories for developing biological warfare agents, based on unconfirmed information from the impostor code-named  (appropriately) “Curveball.” 

It was Tenet who, under orders from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, ordered up and disseminated a fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate on WMD in Iraq, the purpose of which was to deceive our elected representatives out of their constitutional prerogative to authorize war. No small lies.

After a five-year investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Jay Rockefeller described the intelligence adduced under Tenet to “justify” attacking Iraq as “uncorroborated, contradicted, and non-existent.” 

Good enough to win Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom, though. The corruption of intelligence worked just fine for the purposes of Bush and Cheney, thank you very much.

It is a actually a matter of record that Tenet lies a lot, on occasion, demonstrating what I would call chutzpah on steroids. Recall, for example, Tenet in April 2007 snarling at Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes”, five times, in five consecutive sentences, “We do not torture people.”

Under Oath

Tenet has lied about 9/11, too. The joint statement from Tenet, Black and Blee orchestrated by former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow concludes: “We testified under oath about what we did, what we knew and what we didn’t know. We stand by that testimony.”

Almost made me laugh almost.

In his sworn testimony to the 9/11 Commission on April 14, 2004, Tenet said he had not spoken to Bush, even on the telephone, during the entire month of August 2001.

But Tenet did fly down to see the President in Crawford, not once, but twice during August 2001, and briefed Bush again in Washington on the 31st.

After the TV cameras at the 9/11 Commission hearing were shut off, Bill Harlow phoned the commission staff to say, Oops, sorry, Tenet misspoke. Even then, Harlow admitted only to Tenet’s Aug. 17 visit to Crawford (and to the briefing on the 31st).

How do we know Tenet was again in Crawford, on Aug. 24? From a White House press release quoting President Bush to that effect, information somehow completely missed by our vigilant Fawning Corporate Media.

Funny, too, how Tenet could have forgotten his first visit to Crawford on Aug. 17. In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet waxes eloquent about the “president graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and me trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna.” But the visit was not limited to small talk.

In his book Tenet writes: “A few weeks after the August 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the president stayed current on events.” The Aug. 6, 2001, President’s Daily Brief contained the article “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.”

According to Ron Suskind’s The One-Percent Doctrine, the president reacted by telling the CIA briefer, “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.”

If, as Tenet says in his memoir, it was the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB that prompted his visit on Aug. 17, what might have brought him back on Aug. 24? I believe the answer can be found in court documents released at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the fledgling pilot in Minnesota interested in learning to steer a plane but indifferent as to how to land it.

Those documents show that on Aug. 23, 2001, Tenet was given an alarming briefing focusing on Moussaoui, titled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.” Tenet was told that Moussaoui was training to fly a 747 and, among other suspicion-arousing data, had paid for the training in cash.

It is an open question, if a key one, whether Tenet told Bush about the two hijackers, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, while keeping that key information from the person who most needed it, White House counter-terrorist czar Richard Clarke. Clarke finds the only plausible explanation in his surmise that Tenet was personally responsible.

Clarke says: “For me to this day, it is inexplicable, when I had every other detail about everything related to terrorism, that the director didn’t tell me, that the director of the counterterrorism center didn’t tell me, that the other 48 people inside CIA that knew about it never mentioned it to me or anyone in my staff in a period of over 12 months.”

Enter Harlow

But Tenet’s aide-de-camp Bill Harlow has branded Clarke’s statements “absurd and patently false.” The statement Harlow shepherded for Tenet, Black and Blee adds “reckless and profoundly wrong baseless belied by the record unworthy of serious consideration.”

And Harlow never lies? Right.

I’m reminded of Harlow’s reaction to Newsweek’s publication on Feb. 24, 2003, of the intelligence information provided by Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel when he defected to Jordan in 1995. Kamel brought with him a treasure trove of documents and unique knowledge of Iraq’s putative “weapons of mass destruction.”

Most significantly, he told his U.S. debriefers there were no WMD in Iraq. He knew, since he was in charge of the chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs for almost a decade, and he ordered what weapons existed destroyed before the U.N. inspectors could discover them after the war in 1991. 

In his words: “I ordered the destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons, biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.”

He told the U.S. much more, and the information that could be checked out was confirmed. But Kamel’s information didn’t fit with the Bush administration’s propaganda regarding its certainty that Iraq did have WMD stockpiles and was defying United Nations demands that the WMD be destroyed.

Those pushing the Iraq War juggernaut in early 2003 almost had a conniption when Newsweek acquired a transcript of Kamel’s debriefing and published this potentially explosive story barely three weeks before the invasion. 

Newsweek noted gingerly that this information “raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.” It was the kind of impeccably sourced documentary evidence after which intelligence analysts and lawyers lust.

But this was not at all what Bush, Cheney, and, by sycophantic extension, Tenet wanted Newsweek readers, or the rest of us, to learn less than a month before the U.S./U.K. attack on Iraq ostensibly to find and destroy those non-existent weapons.

Bill Harlow to the rescue:  he told the FCM in no uncertain terms that the Newsweek story was, “incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.” And the media cheerleaders for war breathed a sigh of relief, saying, Gosh, thanks for telling us, and then dropped the story like a hot potato.

By all indications, Harlow is still able to work his fraudulent magic on the FCM, which has virtually ignored this major Clarke v. Tenet story since it broke several days ago.

If Harlow says it’s not true and hurls still more pejorative adjectives in a crude attempt to discredit the very serious charge Clarke has made well, I guess we’ll have to leave it there, as the FCM is so fond of saying.

No matter Clarke’s well-deserved reputation for honesty and professionalism, and Tenet’s for the opposite. And so it goes.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. As a CIA analyst, he served under seven presidents and nine CIA directors; he is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




The Dangerous Reagan Cult

Exclusive: Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy inspires Tea Party extremists to oppose any revenue increase, even from closing loopholes on corporate jets. Democrats try the spin that “even Reagan” showed flexibility on debt and taxes. But Robert Parry says it is the “Reagan cult” that is at the heart of America’s crisis.

By Robert Parry

In the debt-ceiling debate, both Republicans and Democrats wanted Ronald Reagan on their side. Republicans embraced the 40th president’s disdain for government and fondness for tax cuts, while Democrats noted that “even Reagan” raised the debt limit many times and accepted some tax increases.

But Reagan possibly more than any political leader deserves the blame for the economic/political mess that the United States now finds itself in. He was the patriarch for virtually every major miscalculation that the country has made over the past three decades.

It was Reagan who slashed taxes on the rich to roughly their current level; he opened the flood gates on deficit spending; he accelerated the decline of the middle class by busting unions and slashing support for local communities; he disparaged the value of government regulations; he squandered money on the Pentagon; he pushed more militaristic strategies abroad; and he rejected any thoughtful criticism of past U.S. foreign policies.

Reagan also created what amounted to a “populist” right-wing cult that targeted the federal government as the source of nearly all evil. In his First Inaugural Address, he famously declared that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

It is that contempt for government that today is driving the Tea Party extremists in the Republican Party. Yet, as with many cults, the founder of this one was somewhat more practical in dealing with the world around him, thus explaining some of Reagan’s compromises on the debt ceiling and taxes.

But once the founder is gone, his teachings can become definitive truth to the disciples. Flexibility disappears. No deviation is permitted. No compromise is tolerated.

So, at a time when government intervention is desperately needed to address a host of national problems, members of this Reagan cult apply the teachings of the leader in the most extreme ways. Since “government is the problem,” the only answer is to remove government from the equation and let the corporations, the rich and the magical “market” dictate national solutions.

It is an ironic testament to Ronald Reagan’s enduring influence that America’s most notable “populist” movement, the Tea Party, insists that tax cuts for the wealthy must be protected, even minor ones like tax loopholes for corporate jets. Inside the Tea Party, any suggestion that billionaire hedge-fund managers should pay a tax rate equal to that of their secretaries is anathema.

Possibly never in history has a “populist” movement been as protective of the interests of the rich as the Tea Party is. But that is because it is really a political cult dedicated to the most extreme rendering of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy.

Astro-Turf ‘Populists’

Granted, the Tea Party also can be viewed as an astro-turf outfit financed by billionaires like the Koch brothers and promoted by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But Election 2010 proved that the movement is capable of putting like-minded politicians into office, especially when discouraged elements of the American Left choose to sit on the sidelines.

During the debt-ceiling battle, the GOP’s Tea Party caucus showed it was strong enough to block any compromise that included a revenue increase. The thinking is that the “evil” government must be starved even if that means defending indefensible tax loopholes and shoving the world’s economy to the brink of catastrophe.

The Tea Party’s rabid enforcement of the Reagan orthodoxy instills such fear among top Republicans that every one of the eight presidential hopefuls at a recent Iowa debate vowed to reject a deal that would include just $1 of higher taxes for each $10 in spending cuts. Even supposed moderates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman threw up their hands.

But the Reagan cult reaches far beyond the Republican Party. Last February, a Gallup poll of Americans cited Reagan as the greatest president ever, with a five percentage point lead over Abraham Lincoln.

These days, virtually no one in Washington’s political or media circles dares to engage in a serious critique of Reagan’s very checkered record as president. It’s much easier to align yourself with some position that Reagan took during his long career, much like a pastor selectively picking a Bible passage to support his theological argument.

When negative national trends are cited such as the decline of the middle class or the widening gap between rich and poor the self-censorship demands that Reagan’s name not be spoken. Instead, there are references to these problems deepening “over the past three decades,” without mentioning whose presidency got things going big time.

Creating an Icon

And there is a self-interested reason for this hesitancy. The Republicans and the Right have made it a high priority to transform Reagan into an icon and to punish any independent-minded political figure or journalist who resists the group think.

The first step in this process occurred in the late 1980s, with aggressive cover-ups of Reagan’s crimes of state, such as scandals over the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair, Contra-cocaine trafficking, and the Iraq-gate support of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Faced with furious Republican defenses of Reagan and his inner circle, most Democrats and mainstream journalists chose career discretion over valor. By the time Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the refrain from Democrats and Washington pundits was to “leave that for the historians.”

Those who didn’t go along with the cover-ups like Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh were subjected to ridicule from both the right-wing and mainstream media, from both the Washington Times and the Washington Post. Journalists who challenged the implausible Reagan cover-ups also found themselves marginalized as “conspiracy theorists.”

Leading Democrats decided it made more sense to look to the future, not dwell on the past. Plus, acquiescing to the cover-ups was a way to show their bipartisanship.

However, Republicans had other ideas. Having pocketed the concessions regarding any serious investigations of Reagan and his cohorts, the Republicans soon went on the offensive by investigating the heck out of President Clinton and his administration.

Then, having stirred up serious public doubts about Clinton’s integrity, the Republicans trounced the Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections. With their new majorities, the Republicans immediately began the process of enshrining Reagan as a national icon.

By and large, the Democrats saw these gestures, like attaching Reagan’s name to National Airport, as another way to demonstrate their bipartisanship.

But Republicans knew better. They understood the strategic value of elevating Reagan’s legacy to the status of an icon. If everyone agreed that Reagan was so great, then it followed that the hated “guv-mint” must be that bad.

More Accommodations

Increasingly, Democrats found themselves arguing on Republican ground, having to apologize for any suggestion that the government could do anything good for the country. Meanwhile, the Clinton-era stock market boom convinced more Americans that the “market” must know best.

Going with that flow, President Clinton signed a Republican-sponsored bill that removed Depression-era regulations in the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banks. With the repeal, the doors were thrown open for Wall Street gambling.

In the short run, lots of money was made, encouraging more Americans to believe that the government and its “safety net” were indeed anachronisms for losers. People with any gumption could simply day-trade their way to riches.

Reagan, it seemed, was right all along: government was the problem; the “free market” was not only the solution but it could “self-regulate.”

That was the political/media environment around Election 2000 when the wonkish Vice President Al Gore ran against the brash Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who came across to many as another version of Ronald Reagan, someone who spoke simply and disdained big government.

Though Gore could point to the economic successes of the Clinton years, including a balanced federal budget and the prospect of the total elimination of the federal debt, the major media mocked him as a know-it-all nerd who wore “earth-toned sweaters.” Meanwhile, mainstream journalists swooned over Bush, the regular guy.

Still, Gore eked out a narrow victory in the national popular vote and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast votes were counted. But Bush relied on his brother’s administration in Florida and his father’s friends on the U.S. Supreme Court to make sure that didn’t happen. Bush was declared the winner in Florida and thus the new president. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

In retrospect, Election 2000 was a disastrous turning point for the United States, putting into the highest office in the land an unqualified ne’er do well who had lost the election.

But this outrage against democracy was largely accepted because of the muscular right-wing machine, the on-bended-knee mainstream media and the weak-kneed Democrats a political/media dynamic that Reagan had helped create and had left behind.

The progress that the Clinton administration had made toward putting the U.S. financial house in order was quickly undone as Bush pushed through two massive tax cuts benefiting mostly the rich and waged two open-ended wars financed with borrowed money.

Years of Reaganism also had taken its toll on the government’s regulatory structures. Reagan had consistently appointed regulators who were hostile to the very concept of regulating, such as Anne Gorsuch at the Environmental Protection Agency and James Watt at Interior. He also elevated Alan Greenspan, a “free market” admirer of Ayn Rand, to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

In the 1980s, the looting of America was underway in earnest, but the elites of Washington and New York saw little to protest since they were getting a cut of the plunder. The real losers were the average Americans, especially factory workers who saw their unions broken or their jobs shipped overseas under the banner of “free trade.”

Feeling Good

But many Americans were kept entranced by Reagan’s feel-good magic.

Taking office after a difficult decade of the 1970s, when America’s defeat in Vietnam and the Arab oil price hikes had shaken the nation’s confidence, Reagan simply assured everyone that things would work out just fine and that no excessive sacrifice was in order. Nor should there be any feelings of guilt, Reagan made clear.

By the late 1970s, it was widely accepted even among many Republicans that the Vietnam War had been an abomination. But Reagan simply rebranded it a “noble cause,” no reason for any serious self-reflection on America’s imperial role in the world.

Reagan then allied the United States with “death-squad” regimes all over Latin America and across the Third World. His administration treated the resulting carnage as a public-relations problem that could be managed by challenging the patriotism of critics.

At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Reagan’s United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick labeled Americans who dared criticize U.S. foreign policy as those who would “blame America first.”

To continue this sort of verbal pummeling on those who continued to get in the way, Reagan credentialed a bunch of thuggish intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

For the rest of the country, there were happy thoughts about “the shining city on a hill” and “morning in America.”

In reality, however, Reagan had set the stage for the tragedies that would follow. When George W. Bush grabbed power in 2001, he simply extended the foreign and economic policies of the Republican cult leader: more tax cuts, more militarism, less regulation, more media manipulation.

Soon, the gap between rich and poor was widening again. Soon, the United States was at open war in two countries and involved in secret wars in many others. Soon, the nation was confronted with new scandals about torture and deception. Soon, the federal budget was flowing with red ink.

And near the end of Bush’s presidency, the de-regulated excesses of Wall Street pushed the country to the brink of a financial cataclysm. Bush supported a bail-out to save the bankers but didn’t do much for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs or their homes.

Second Thoughts?

One might have thought that the financial crack-up in 2008 (plus the massive federal deficits and the botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) would have confronted the Reagan cult with an existential crisis of faith. It would seem obvious that Reagan’s nostrums just didn’t work.

However, after only a brief interregnum of Barack Obama, the Republicans seem poised to restore the Reagan cult to full power in the United States. The new apparent GOP frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is already being hailed in the Washington Post as “The Texas Gipper.”

The Washington Times (yes, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing propaganda sheet is still around) fairly cooed over Perry’s tough attacks on Obama, depicting America’s first black president as someone who apologizes for America and isn’t deserving of its soldiers in uniform.

“One of the powerful reasons for running for president of the United States is to make sure every man and woman who puts on the uniform respects highly the president of the United States,” Perry said. “We are indignant about a president who apologizes for America.”

As far as Perry is concerned, America has nothing to apologize for.

These are themes right out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. And it appears likely that Election 2012 will be fought over terrain defined by Reagan, even though he left office in 1989 and died in 2004.

It is already clear that President Obama will be on the defensive, trying to justify a role for the federal government in America and explaining why the Reaganesque policy of low taxes on the rich must finally be reversed. Obama also is certain to shy away from any serious examination of how U.S. foreign policy went so wrong, so as not to be labeled “apologist-in-chief.”

Rick Perry or whatever other Republican gets the party’s nomination will hold the high ground of Reagan’s lofty standing among the American people. The GOP nominee can continue blaming “guv-mint” for the nation’s problems and promising another “morning in America” if only the nation further reduces the size of “guv-mint.”

With Democrats also trying to associate themselves with the “greatest president ever,” it appears doubtful that any serious effort will be made to explain to the American people that the charming Reagan was the pied piper who led them to their current demise.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book,Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.




Common Ground in Anti-War Appeal

The major U.S. news media is again focusing Campaign 2012 on personalities, gaffes and poll-measured momentum, a superficiality that has contributed to America’s dysfunctional politics for several decades. But ex- FBI agent Coleen Rowley describes her work with an anti-war group seeking to change that dynamic.

By Coleen Rowley

The Des Moines news reporter who noted our anti-war message at the entrance of Saturday’s Republican Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, did not stay around long enough to see the real story.

Our banners actually got an amazingly good reception!

Positioned as we were at the entrance to the event, we were surprised at how many of the thousands of straw poll attendees (even those clad in Pawlenty and Santorum t-shirts) responded positively to the “Come Home America” message.

Banners warning that “Endless War = Endless Debt” and “War IS Taxing” resonated with people of all political (conservative, libertarian, and socially progressive) backgrounds who stopped to talk, with some even giving up an hour or two of their time to help us hold the banners.

Attendees seemed genuinely interested when we encouraged them to sign our recent “Dear Obama” letter and told them we were part of a non-partisan effort focused on the most important ISSUES of the day, instead of the promises, slogans, cute winks and other crazy antics of any particular political candidate.

The truth is that progressives who support social safety nets, funding of public education, and who are opposed to the widening disparity between the wealthiest and the poor cannot possibly see their goals realized without the U.S. government changing course away from the last decade of destructive and costly wars.

Libertarians will not see restoration of civil liberties, adherence to the Constitution and away from national security policing and “War Presidency” empowerment.

“Greens” will not see more funding and research diverted to sustainable and environmentally clean energy technologies. And fiscal conservatives cannot possibly get the small, decentralized government they long for while the United States seeks costly world empire and military superpower status.

All of these worthwhile goals are connected by money and are antithetical to the U.S. government’s spending on runaway militarism.

If the American government continues to be controlled by the military-industrial-congressional-media complex, in defiance of this popular consensus, throwing away trillions of hard-earned and increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars on bombs, drone technology, armoring tanks and outright corporate contractor fraud, none of these other objectives are possible.

So while hundreds of national media in Iowa covered the actual, close straw poll finish (near tie) of Michele Bachmann (only beating Ron Paul by 152 votes) and did not seem to care or cover the enormous outpouring we witnessed from people of different political backgrounds and loyalties, the consensus for ending the wars and runaway militarism is building.

Numerous polls confirm that we’re approaching a unique moment when a variety of rationales for ending the wars are coming together that transcend prior political differences.

In any event, look for our Come Home America initiative and banners to represent this remarkable convergence outside some of Obama’s upcoming speeches as well as other major political events throughout the nation.

By strengthening the emerging consensus, it may be possible to end the insanity of these wars.

While politicos and horse race bettors constantly talk of making their selections using the “lesser of two evils” formula, one thing is clear: it is the issues that matter more than the political personalities.

And unjust, unnecessary war is not the lesser of two evils! It is the evil that corrupts and contaminates everything else.

Retired FBI agent Coleen Rowley is on the Steering Committee for “Come Home America” (http://comehomeamerica.us/)