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February 1, 2004 Sidebars

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Items to get you thinking...
The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and the past is useful.

I sometimes worry that our leader is not all there - as in "actually detached from reality."   No.   Couldn't be.  But then again, the problem seems to be spreading.



Ah, it's not just me. 

This on the blog Body and Soul this week ...


Let's twist again, like we did last summer

Remember that bizarre moment last summer when George Bush forgot that Hans Blix existed? 

"The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program?  And the answer is, absolutely.  And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."

Wouldn't let them in?  

Fine, chalk that up to a senior moment, or even a slip of the tongue.  Sometimes I don't manage to say exactly what I mean either. 

But then yesterday, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, discussing the David Kay report, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) repeated Bush's twisted history:

"But, in regards to Saddam Hussein, if in fact he didn't have them, why on earth didn't he let the U.N.  inspectors in and avoid the war?  That is a real puzzlement to me."

Okay, they're freaking me out now.  Either senility is running rampant in the Republican party, or they're making a concerted effort to keep repeating the same lie until it becomes the accepted truth. 

Can they get away with it?  ... Blitzer didn't even notice Roberts' revision of history.


Well, many of my friends discussed this with me in many an email. 

Bush said that last July.  I was appalled that Bush either lied or really was detached from reality.  My friends in the news business said not to worry, everyone knew what he meant.  No big deal. 

But I worry.

A voice from the past longs for the good old days....



In case you missed it, Daniel Ellsberg is calling for someone to, well, "pull an Ellsberg."

For those of us of a certain age, this has some resonance. 

And it really resonates out here.  Ellsberg took the now famous "Pentagon Papers" from the offices of the Rand Corporation ten miles west of here, down in Santa Monica.  Heck, it's local history. 

But the idea of someone today finding such papers and sneaking them off to the copy center Ellsberg used down the hill in West Hollywood, just a few blocks from here, and then the idea that today's New York Times would have the balls to print the papers - well, that's pretty far-fetched.  The Times has been defanged.  Heck, the Times has been toothless for a generation.  Along with the rest of the media. 

The world has changed.  And the Patriot Act is now in play.  And the current Rove-Cheney Texas fellows play a lot nastier game than the Nixon team ever did.  You don't mess with these guys.  And they're untouchable. 

Still Ellsberg wants someone to grab some papers and find some wide-circulation newspaper or magazine with the audacity to publish the stuff. 

Dream on.  That's not todays media. 

But for what it's worth check out:

Leak against this war
US and British officials must expose their leaders' lies about Iraq - as I did over Vietnam
Daniel Ellsberg, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday January 27, 2004

After the obligatory tale of being under fire in a rice field in Vietnam, chatting with the grunts dodging bursts of fire from the faceless locals, and realizing that particular war was a tragic farce, he gets fed up.  You get a bit of what he was thinking.  It felt like being a British Redcoat in New England in the 1770's, and it looks like Iraq now. 


Foreign troops far from home, wearing helmets and uniforms and carrying heavy equipment, getting shot at every half-hour by non-uniformed irregulars near their own homes, blending into the local population after each attack. 

I can't help but remember that afternoon as I read about US and British patrols meeting rockets and mines without warning in the cities of Iraq.  As we faced ambush after ambush in the countryside, we passed villagers who could have told us we were about to be attacked.  Why didn't they?  First, there was a good chance their friends and family members were the ones doing the attacking.  Second, we were widely seen by the local population not as allies or protectors - as we preferred to imagine - but as foreign occupiers.  Helping us would have been seen as collaboration, unpatriotic.  Third, they knew that to collaborate was to be in danger from the resistance, and that the foreigners' ability to protect them was negligible. 


Concord in 1773, Vietnam 1968, Iraq last weekend.  Same stuff. 

So?  Here's the logic:


I served three US presidents - Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - who lied repeatedly and blatantly about our reasons for entering Vietnam, and the risks in our staying there.  For the past year, I have found myself in the horrifying position of watching history repeat itself.  I believe that George Bush and Tony Blair lied - and continue to lie - as blatantly about their reasons for entering Iraq and the prospects for the invasion and occupation as the presidents I served did about Vietnam. 

By the time I released to the press in 1971 what became known as the Pentagon Papers - 7,000 pages of top-secret documents demonstrating that virtually everything four American presidents had told the public about our involvement in Vietnam was false - I had known that pattern as an insider for years, and I knew that a fifth president, Richard Nixon, was following in their footsteps.  In the fall of 2002, I hoped that officials in Washington and London who knew that our countries were being lied into an illegal, bloody war and occupation would consider doing what I wish I had done in 1964 or 1965, years before I did, before the bombs started to fall: expose these lies, with documents. 


Daniel, no "officials in Washington and London" would consider that.  What were you thinking? 

Yes, there are, no doubt, "thousands of pages of documents in safes in London and Washington right now - the Pentagon Papers of Iraq - whose unauthorized revelation would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should continue sending our children to die in Iraq."

Hey, Daniel, get a grip!
Joseph Wilson can tell you that you just don't mess with these folks, and his wife can tell you too.  And David Kelly is walking a fine line these days, saying there really were no weapons of mass destruction there for years - but he's being real careful to say Bush and his team should be mad at the CIA and the rest of the intelligence crew for misleading poor George.  Yeah, right.  How many times did Cheney say just screw the CIA and let's trust the Iraqi exile community's rumors? 

Of course both Downing Street and the White House organized covert pressure to punish these guys and to deter others.  But that's when they're being nice.  You dont want to mess with them when they're in a really bad mood - and "the Pentagon Papers of Iraq" getting printed up and read all over the world would put them in a very bad mood. 

Yes, Daniel, you faced twelve felony counts and a possible sentence of 115 years, and the charges were dismissed only when it was discovered that White House actions aimed at stopping further revelations of administration lying had included criminal actions against you. 

The current guys are more careful and they don't get caught. 

This is not the late sixties or early seventies.  That "kinder, gentler world" is long gone. 

Any other ideas?