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Saturday, May 31, 2008

McClellan Squeals

Scott McClellan, former Press Secretary for the White House, launched a promotion tour for his new book, presented as an expose on Bush's manipulation of the press before the Iraq war.

McClellan's book has the talking heads babbling. It's as if the media were surprised when yet another hole in their official narrative appears, despite the many rips in the curtain hiding the worm-eaten carcass of pre-war intelligence. McClellan's tell-all is just more evidence in the mounting case that the press enabled the lie by dispensing administration claims as uncontested facts.

The corporate media has always treated Iraq as the product of "faulty intelligence" hawked by an overzealous administration rather than the premeditated dispersal of cherry-picked intelligence, a whole different approach.

The MSM narrative is so rudely violated by administration insiders telling the truth, which is that they knew Iraq had no ties to terror or WMD, but lied that they did. Lying to start a war is a clear violation of the spirit of the Nuremburg trials, if not an outright violation of international law, whatever that might mean to the administration. While the press might not be tried by some future court--other than that of public opinion where it must earn back viewer trust--the same can't be said for those who knew they were telling lies about Iraq, but went ahead and told them anyway.

It's only now, with the release of McClellan's book, that the press confronts the abject failure to scrutinize the intelligence that led to the war. Can the media police itself and accept responsibility for parroting administration lies?

McClellan has blamed the press for not being hard enough on prewar claims made by the White House. This double standard comes from someone who was walking dispensary of lies, someone who got paid to undercut criticism of the administration and bolster whatever it claimed as the truth. For anyone who's ever listened to these press conferences, sorting the direct and honest truth from what is said is a convoluted process as the spin and half-truths are laid on thick.

It took not the deaths of thousands in a useless, unnecessary war to bring McClellan to his desire to tell the truth, but rather Plame's outing, labeled the "CIA Leak case." The Plame case is very important as the forerunner to a series of abuses of power by the White House. Joe Wilson's debunking of just one of the Administration's claims on Iraq led to the outing of his wife, a covert agent active in the fight against WMD.

The Plame outing showed the rotten core of the relationship between those in power and the press responsible for keeping the press informed. Robert Novak was encouraged by Richard Armitage in a rarely granted interview to pursue the Wilson-sent-on-a-junket angle, which led to the initial public outing of Plame in a column by Novak.

The group of Plame outers conspiring in the White House--led most certainly by Vice President Cheney--counted on media people like Novak and Bob Woodward to care more about preserving insider access--and all the professional benefits that brings--than the truth of what they said. When forced to consider protecting Plame's identity, media people with close ties to the White House were pre-disposed to blaming Wilson was guided by partisan political motives--out to get the White House.

It's hard to be sympathetic to McClellan. During the Fitzgerald investigation, there'd been rumors that he'd brought Plame's identity up in conversations with reporters. McClellan also occupied a central position in the White House/press corps nexus and could exploit overeager, ambitious press people quite easily. Writing a book can hardly absolve him now.

Judith Miller spewed lies spoon-fed her by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) about Iraqi WMD. So enamored was Miller with WHIG member and Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby that she steadfastly refused to testify against him in the Fitzgerald investigation, spending months in jail instead.

Whatever Miller's relationship with Libby, she risked something else entirely by admitting her role in outing Plame: her professional credibility. If the public were to learn about her role as a parrot of White House propaganda, it could taint her entire journalistic legacy. Countless articles on Iraq WMD authored by Miller--appearing on the front page of the New York Times no less--would be revealed as a mix of government propaganda, unchecked facts, and biased innuendo. This revelation would deeply hurt Times publisher Sulzberger, a man who'd entrusted to Miller a great deal of that paper's credibility and page space. It's worth noting that the NYT has yet to run any correction of substance for any of the dozens of articles Miller wrote concerning Iraqi WMD.

While lies on WMD and terror in Iraq were propagandistic, the Plame outing appears more to be about silencing the intelligence apparatus which could have exposed Bush administration "faulty intelligence" to be the lies and outright fabrications. Like Watergate, the famous apartment complex where Nixon-affiliated goons orchestrated a raid on a Democratic Party office, most of the problems for the administration seem to come not from the initial wrongdoing, but from post-facto efforts to cover up the initial wrongdoing.

In the same way, Plame still presents the greatest danger for the Administration if fully investigated not in the sense of unmasking pre-war lies--the initial wrongdoing--but in their real motive: outing Plame in order to intimidate others into silence about pre-war lies. Now we see more and more former White House insiders verifying what was mere conspiracy theory a few years back.

McClellan might still be vulnerable to Congressional investigations which could try to identify what role he had in the Plame outing. We do know that McClellan had a bevy of press contacts through which he could hint that partisan motives were behind Joe Wilson's 2003 editorial on yellowcake, "What I Didn't Find in Africa." McClellan didn't have to tell people in the White House Press Corps that Plame was covert, he could simply hint at it, and hope that the press people he'd told would maintain his anonymity out of fear of losing their source.

McClellan only now chooses to reveal what he knew at the time, which is in itself evidence that he knew what he was saying at the time to be lies. By saying how Bush deceived the American public, he can transfer some of the responsibility over to his boss, and say it was them, not me. This defense was used in Nuremburg by SS guards at death camps, who simply said they were following orders. It's not much of a shield, but prosecution may be difficult when it relies on what someone knew at some point in the past, or when an entire society buys into the message of a Hitler. Much has emerged since Nuremburg to indict soldiers of the German Werhmacht, simple grunts, with all matter of war crimes related to the slaughter of innocents. In this respect, all Germany is responsible for the actions of a few.

Are we Americans responsible for the Administration's lies on Iraq? Like the scene in a Band of Brothers, should we be roused at gunpoint from our homes and made to clean up the corpses at the death camp down the road that we chose to ignore? With two oceans to separate us from our handiwork, the American people remains blissfully disconnected from the actions of its government. As long as Congress fails to investigate, or the press demand more accountability--of itself--I guess it would take a complete dismantling of the current government to hold those responsible, responsible.

Media control

The President's case for war with Iraq in 2002 was quite convincing. I'd just come back from Japan, where I'd been working and quite insulated from the nefarious goings-ons in Washington, D.C.. I'd reassured my Canadian, Australian, and English colleagues that there'd be no war! How wrong I was.

Yet when I'd come back in late 2002, I found the case for going to war compelling. Copious amounts of intelligence had been assembled and presented making what was at the time a powerful case for going to war. I hadn't been alone-- a majority of Americans sided with the President. Judging from a total absence of skepticism on the part of the press, I guess the media had pretty much bought into the Iraq threat, with 9/11 and anti-Arab hysteria playing a large part in that acceptance.

Unlike McClellan, we didn't know at the time that the Bush administration was cherry-picking intelligence and falsifying evidence against Iraq. That behavior was exposed much later, in the alternative media by writers like Justin Raimondo and Ray McGovern. Gracing the front page of the venerable New York Times, Miller's scoop on Iraqi WMD hardly seemed to be propaganda.

Much of what McClellan says has already been revealed. Arianna Huffington has commented that much of the blame for the situation we now find ourselves in rests with people who should have exposed the Bush administration earlier, like five years ago, long before the mainstream media bandwagon joined the Bush-bashing frenzy.

The long-standing reality is that the Bush administration abandoned truthfulness and transparency long ago. It's just never been convenient for editors and publishers in our much-consolidated MSM to let the facts be known.

Few Americans are aware of Congress' prerogative, which allows it to investigate any potential wrong-doing by the executive. Arguably, Congress has been derelict in its duties since passing on any significant inquiry into the Plame leak. It's worth remembering that Fitzgerald was only appointed because Acting Attorney General Comey took over while John Ashcroft was operated on, and signed the investigation into existence. With a Justice Department controlled by political appointees hellbent on pursuing political objectives with Rove-like viciousness, it's a miracle that Fitzgerald got any convictions. Or, once the legal investigation gained traction, accepting a lesser offense became more palatable for those involved.

If a conspiracy had existed to out Plame, it most certainly revolved around the Vice President, who was in the thick of the matter, scribbling in the margins of Wilson's NYT 2003 op-ed. He'd be the bigger fish that Libby, his chief-of-staff would have protected, being that the Bush junta craves loyalty like some gangster family (one whose ex-members are scrambling to rat out, apparently.)

The MSM offers a media environment which purged any dissent, accepting at its core Bush's rationale for war, while showcasing Pentagon "analysts" who were supposedly neutral observers. In just one example, in October, 2004, CBS (then part of Viacom) rejected the airing of a 60 Minutes episode about Bush's National Guard service on the grounds its release would be politically prejudicial to the electorate if released just before the election.

Tight control over the media by Bush-supporting moguls suppressed negatives coverage, so of course now McClellan's revelations are a surprise, but only because they redefine the narrative that the MSM sold about the war.

Who wanted war? There was a reason for the collusion between Zionist, Right-leading media moguls and the Bush administration. This relationship has been based on a quid pro quo based on the FCC deregulating limits on media ownership in exchange for less negative coverage appearing in the news.

To an extent, public perception reflects the amount of attention the press gives a topic. But the MSM can't monopolize coverage, nor can it sustain a politician's popularity. At some point, no amount of spin can sway public opinion in favor of Iraq, nor can it slow the opposition to Bush.

Enticed by the Administration's mismanagement of Katrina in 2005, eventually the MSM's controllers let its journalists enter into attack mode. This came too late to prevent a second term and all the subsequent abuses of authority that have occurred including at a minimum: torture, un-Constitutional spying, mortgage fraud leading to a collapse of the credit markets, on-going destruction of our military readiness, and ballooning budget deficits caused by war spending.

Facts not released to the MSM-viewing public remain out of the public domain, or at least that was the plan. Over time, people have gravitated to the Web, finding it a better source of unbiased facts and information. Out of the sheer necessity for survival against bloggers and alternative news sources which reported more fairly, the MSM was forced to improve its coverage.

On a host of issues, the mainstream media's ability to shape public reception has been drastically curtailed. One of the few remaining perception management techniques is to keep the public in the dark. Stories on Iraq are appearing far less frequently in the news these days.

The pendulum swings back, forcing MSM consortiums to re-evaluate the circumstances. Politics clearly has no place in the newsroom, nor should corporate managers dominate news coverage or censor valuable facts. These companies will most likely pay in the long-term with greatly shrunken numbers of readers and viewers. To the financial detriment of their shareholders, distrust of the corporate-controlled MSM could linger for years--a legitimate price that any distributor of government propaganda should pay in the much-ballyhooed free market of capitalism that these moguls rave about, even as they destroy competition in local media market after local media market.

We human beings have an innate thirst for knowledge and truth. Over time we will learn what we want or must to survive. No propaganda, or still-active-but-feigning-retirement general, can prevent the public from growing wise, getting suspicious, and lead them to question the veracity of their corporate news. Of course it's a tragedy that so many of our civil rights have been sacrificed, and so much treasure squandered, before the public has learned what kind of President that Bush has really been. The blowback will be immense, with the MSM losing credibility.

System failure

Ours is a system which denies us representation that day after a President is elected for a second term. A lame duck President need not fear a Congressional vote of no confidence because no power like that exists under our Constitution. Such a legislative action puts pressure on the Executive, and can even force new elections to be held in some nations. The way our electoral system goes, once Kerry was defeated, the Bush administration was in the clear.

Under our system, abuses of power and misconduct by one branch of government are meant to be constrained by the other two branches. The founders discussed using self-interest as a method to motivate one branch into halting the erosion of the rights of the other branches. With a full Congressional inquiry into pre-war intelligence, Congress could limit expansions of Executive authority that have come at their expense. The White House has successfully kept this area off-limits on the grounds of national security, which has kept Congress from investigating. Unless votes can be had at Bush's expense in a very public inquiry, there's little to be gained.

Once in power, stonewalling the Congress and Courts became the new operating principle for the Bush crew. Except through legal recourse, the methods used to get reelected became irrelevant, unless of course certain offenses were prosecuted or prosecutable. A Congressional investigation may be a big threat and condemn the Administration in the court of public opinion. In a move that hints at its vulnerability, the White House is now claiming McClellan can be blocked from testifying before Congress (link).

Like Watergate, much of the administration's wrongdoing can be traced back to the effort to get reelected. Led by Rove, Bush appointees in Alberto Gonzales' justice Department systematically purged prosecutors who wouldn't pursue politically motivated cases and were thus deemed unfriendly to the politics of the junta. The case of Alabama Governor Siegelman is proving to be a text book case of using prosecutorial discretion at the federal level to score brownie points with political insiders and gain through discretionary favoritism. See the Harper's article by Scott Horton.

Digging deeper into malfeasance within Justice could lead to huge holes being blown open in the official explanation for 9/11. Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff actually entertained Mohammed Atta on a Sun Cruz casino boat, hardly a site patronized by loyal Muslims whose Koran explicitly forbids gambling. Like the fabricated intelligence used to make the case for the Iraq war, more and more inconsistencies show up in the 9/11 Official Explanation, except no tell-alls will ever emerge from insiders on that one.

As was the case with Joe Wilson, the first whistle-blowers are dismissed as crazies, or considered to be motivated purely by partisan politics. With 9/11, the first skeptics were treated as unpatriotic, or just wierdos. Then more insiders like McClellan might emerge and prove that the conspiracy was nothing less than the truth suppressed by the MSM, and the only fiction was that of the false narrative sustained through backdoor cooperation between the media and White House.

If one good thing can be said of our democratic process, it is that whistle-blowers can whistle. We are not totalitarian, and their voices haven't been silenced. The yin and yang are coming back into balance, we hope. Constitutional rights and a free press have been mauled by this process, but hopefully the Congress will step up and investigate. Likewise, market-based disincentives should emerge from the consolidation and politicization of corporate media.

The more time that elapses away from the event, and the less stigma that gets attached to any contesting of the very preliminary yet utterly final explanation offered by our government. Soon the preponderance of unprovable assertions which constitute the O.E. will have to be addressed, if not in the MSM and/or Congress, then on the Web, where so-called conspiracy theories are growing daily, bolstered by rising audiences willing to consider the merits of any argument based purely on the unvarnished facts.

Rather than conclude the event was caused by the planes, one very likely scenario is that bombs were planted in the buildings and detonated. We are really only seeing the facts emerge now, almost seven years later. How much more has our government and corporate media not told us over the years?



  • At 2:36 AM, Blogger jbpeebles said…

    Jeff Cohen of FAIR has written a good article on this topic.

  • At 9:25 PM, Blogger jbpeebles said…

    I just posted the following at commondreams.org under Tim Karr's "McClellan and the 'Enablers'":

    Great commentary on this book. Yes, it's a non-story to everyone except those were selling, or bought into, the intelligence mistake narrative. Will revelations on 9/11 shatter the Official Explanation in a similar way?

    Congress does reserve criticism, but remember they were vulnerable to the same propaganda dispersed through the MSM.

    Launching the Iraq war was a victory for the neocons as they quite clearly knew how hard it would be to get out once we started. (I hear some cold water on a tomcat's back will get them to stop, is there some similar remedy to get our armies to pull out?)

    Congress is a bunch of weak old white men with love of the status quo. So inept are they that they've forgotten the failure of Vietnam, and are caught up in the fake support the troops argument to the point they can't stomach withdrawal.

    I'm one of the bloggers "still covering this issue, refusing to let Big Media off the hook." See my post on this issue, McClellan Squeals.
    `end post`

    See also the very insightful recap of Eric Brewer's
    of a dialogue with White House Spokesperson Perino. Apparently, Bush did admit to authorizing a leak of a National Intelligence Estimate. McClellan quit soon after. Here is McClellan quoted from the Today Show:
    "The revelation was that it was the president who had authorized, or enabled, Scooter Libby to go out there and talk about this information. And I told the president that that's what the reporter was asking. He was saying that you, yourself, were the one that authorized the leaking of this information. And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kinda taken aback."
    Brewer adds:
    "So "taken aback" evidently that he announced his resignation thirteen days later."
    Not a big jump from leaking the NIE to letting it slip that Plame was covert. What's one mistake from another? Oops, guess we leaked it. Sorry, Plame.


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