UQ Wire: Bernard Weiner - Up, Up and 'B.S. Away!'
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Unanswered Questions : Thinking for ourselves.
Up, Up and "B.S. Away!"
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
The Silicon Valley scientist-friend who introduced me to "B.S. Away" several months ago* invited me to visit again for a second tryout of his new truth-spray invention. After watching Condoleezza Rice's slip-and-slide performance before the 9/11 Commission, and the U.S. military spin on the unraveling events in Iraq, I couldn't resist.
"Your spray worked like magic last time," I said. "I know before your patent is granted that you're not allowed to tell me too much about how it works, but, just between you and me, how does it work?"
"Quit kidding around and just use the stuff," he replied, and handed me a little spray bottle. I raced home to try it again, on Rice and Iraq-spin and Ashcroft.
I found a re-broadcast of Condi's testimony and spritzed the "B.S. Away" on the TV. Here's what I got:
CONDI'S MASK SLIPS AWAY
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had rehearsed for three days how to spin and filibuster your questions about the Administration's pre-9/11 knowledge -- you know, the structural reforms of the intelligence bureaucracies weren't yet in place, we were doing everything we could to prepare our Al Qaida offensive, we didn't know what was about to happen, the FBI and CIA dropped the ball and didn't connect the dots, and anyway whatever went wrong wasn't our fault. But then I just decided to come in and tell it like it was.
"When we first moved into the White House, we were kind of fixated on larger issues, such as how we could transform Islam in the Middle East and control the stability of the oil flow in a world fast running out of petroleum reserves, and how we could get a military foothold in Iraq to assert our dominance in the area. Besides, we were suspicious: the outgoing Administration was warning us so much about the dangers posed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida that we thought the Clintons were trying to set us up, so we stayed away from their recommendations like the plague. We didn't ignore terrorism, but we weren't focusing on it either. We left that concern to Dick Clarke to obsess about and made sure to keep him away from the wielders of power. We had a different agenda in preparation.
"Because of Sen. Jeffords' defection from the GOP, we were stymied in our domestic program in Congress, and our long-range foreign/military policies were being tied up in diplomatic complexities abroad. We needed something big, a catalyzing event, that would alter the chemistry of our political prospects.
"In the summer of 2001, things started to materialize for us along those lines: We got all those warnings about a spectacular Al Qaida attack that was planned for inside the U.S., probably by airplane and aimed at unspecified but guessable icon targets in New York and Washington, D.C. (We even ran a test run on such a disaster at the Pentagon, a drill that assumed a large plane had crashed into it.) Bush hightailed it out of Washington and went to ground in Texas for a month; Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial jets; somebody was buying huge amounts of airline stock 'puts' on the assumption the price would p lummet, and so on.
"We'd been briefed and were getting direct calls from various countries' intelligence services passing on anxious warnings, so we sure as hell knew something major was about to go down, even if we didn't know the exact date and targets. So, we decided simply to look the other way about the imminent Al Qaida attack, whenever and whatever it turned out to be -- and, like Pearl Harbor in 1941, to use the ensuing tragedy to wake up the country to our new situation in the world.
"After the attacks, we cobbled together a lot of old bills that the Congress had refused to pass in previous years because of civil-liberties problems, wrapped them inside a few genuine national-security measures that everyone could agree on, and rushed the Patriot Act through a frightened Congress still reeling from 9/11 and the anthrax scare. Passage of the Patriot Act made it easier to get things done domestically without having constantly to deal with Constitutional prohibitions. We began moving more assertively abroad, without having to worry about anyone stopping us -- or being restrained by, or having to share power with, the United Nations or any other group -- since we were the only superpower left standing.
"I guess we thought and hoped the Al Qaida attack would involve only some localized bombings and maybe one plane that might get hijacked and crashed into an out-of-the-way government structure or a military base or something like that; lots of death and destruction but a small price to pay for the freedom to move on our important work. We never wanted to believe that a whole fleet of commercial jets could be taken over and used as fuel-laden missiles against huge skyscrapers and major government centers of power, and that 3000 people would die.
"But once our doing-nothing deed was done, we had to keep going, and the coverup began. A few savvy liberal and internet analysts sussed out the truth pretty early -- and later our secret made its way into the mainstream press; after the essence of the August 6, 2001 PDB was revealed, we were horrified at that huge headline May 16, 2002 in the New York Post: "HE KNEW!" But the country was still too scared to think those thoughts in that early period. Instead, just as we hoped would happen, the citizenry rallied around the President and, when we invaded Afghanistan, around the flag as well.
"There were calls for an early investigation of how 9/11 happened, but Cheney went to Gephardt and Daschle and headed off any Congressional probes -- 'national security,' you know. So we had a free ride up until relatively recently, when we had to cave in to the victims' families and OK an 'independent' 9/11 commission. We thought, given the veteran insiders we appointed, that they'd skim over the surface of the facts -- especially when we didn't provide them many. We delayed and delayed and postponed and postponed, but the public pressure was getting so intense, we had to give them some documents we would have preferred to keep secret.
"Anyway, to sum up: Our 9/11 crime was looking the other way for our own purposes; power-hunger will do that to good people sometimes. Our long-range intentions seemed honorable to us at the time. I apologize to all the families who suffered due to our incompetence and hunger for control. We can't bring your loved ones back. We can't guarantee that there won't be another major terrorist attack. But we as leaders, and we as a country, this time can try to cut those chances to an absolute minimum. I ask for your understanding and forgiveness. And I hereby tender my resignation."
Next, I listened to Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the military chiefs trying to downplay the unraveling of U.S. control over the situation in Iraq and the beginnings of a countrywide intifada. Out with the "B.S. Away," and in with a more truthful version:
Said Rumsfeld: "We're in a devil of a fix. Because the whole premise of the war was based on lies and deceptions -- we built up Saddam as a mad monster, with huge stockpiles of WMD, and believed that the Iraqis, so happy to be liberated, eagerly would work with us to establish the kind of system we wanted for them -- we weren't able to deal with, or even to appreciate, the situation as it really was.
"We understood neither Iraqi nor tribal culture, nor the religious complexities, nor the strength of nationalist feelings. And, even though we weren't guarding the armament dumps around Iraq, we did not anticipate the swiftness with which large elements of the Iraqi population could generate an insurgent response to our occupation. In short, we did very well with Plan A -- our 'shock-and-awe' military phase that overthrew the Saddam regime -- but we had no Plan B ready to go for the post-war restructuring of Iraqi society, in a hostile environment.
"We rushed way too fast into our initial military attack (so as to make the war a fait accompli before the U.N. or the American people could put roadblocks in our way), and then tried to nation-build with the soldiers who had just destroyed so much of the country; naturally, we ran into problems. We hand-picked malleable Iraqis and put them into power as an interim governing body, and then were surprised that so many Iraqis regarded them as our puppets.
"Rove and Cheney and Bush want our troops out of the main killing areas by June 30, because of the American election campaign, but, given the level of violence right now -- and the scary signs of possible mergers between Shia and Sunni forces -- we may not even make it to June 30. And even if we do, to whom do we turn over the supposed domestic 'sovereignty' of the country? And will this stop the growing strength of the intifada?"
Wolfowitz, misted with some "B.S. Away," said: "I don't know what we should do. We're between a rock and a hard place. None of this complexity was taught at the Neoconservative institutes and organizations like AIE and PNAC. That was all theory. Now we're in reality -- and it's ugly and messy and total chaos. We totally wanted to believe what Chalabi and his Iraqi exile-friends were telling us, and we're paying the price for our ideological blinders.
"Yes, we were wrong about trying to do these wars on the cheap, counting on our technological might to frighten populations and leaders into submission. One way we could move would be to bring in a hundred thousand more troops to try to quell the nationalist insurgency and to deal with Sadr's fundamentalist army. But if we do that, it'll really look like Vietnam all over again, constantly sending in more and more troops -- who will be forced to treat all Iraqis as potential enemies, which will make us more hated and reviled -- and then having to negotiate for an ignominious exit down the road. The Democrats would eat us alive.
"Or we could can go hat in hand to the United Nations and offer them shared, or even full, authority if they'll come in with an international peacekeeping force -- if they would even consider something like that, given how we humiliated them before we launched our war, and how things are falling apart there. If they decide not to come in and help out, preferring that we stew in our own juices, we're back to square one.
"Or we could cut our losses, declare victory in ridding the country of a tyrant and setting up rudimentary democratic institutions, and simply leave. In which case, not only would there be hell to pay electorally for our policy debacle and all the deaths we caused for nothing, but the radical, anti-American Islamists woul gain control, and we would have to abandon our entire Middle East strategy of altering and modernizing the face of Islam and maintaining control of that oil-rich area.
"My guess is that Rove-Cheney-Bush will decide to pour more troops into the battle, if only to prolong the inevitable withdrawal until after Election Day in November. Use the American troops as our electoral shield, as it were. If we lose the war after we win the election, we'll deal with the unfolding situation at that time, even if we have to make it up as we go along. If we lose the election, let the Democrats handle that hot potato. Damn those neocon theorists! Wait a minute, I'm one of the main ones. My bad."
Attorney General John Ashcroft wants to expand the Patriot Act -- because, he claims, it doesn't give him enough police powers to go after terrorists -- even though more than 200 cities and states have approved resolutions against the worst aspects of that hastily-passed law.
I took the bottle and sprayed a number of his speeches, and here's what Ashcroft said:
"Well, yes, we didn't pay that much attention to combatting Al Qaida, neither before nor after 9/11. We needed the terrorists (and still need them) for our own purposes -- they are a positively frightening, murderous group -- just as the terrorists need us as the Great Satan to energize their radical Islamic hordes.
"Without their terror, we wouldn't have been able to get the Patriot Act OKd and all the other extraconstitutional measures passed or authorized by me or Bush. Sure, we probably need those measures to help in our hunt for terrorists, but we only catch one or two real bad guys that way. The real pleasure for me is using our police powers to scares folks from dissenting, and in reining in immoral behavior. It's amazing: I can accomplish this simply by invoking politically-magic phrases -- 'national security' and 'the war on terrorism'. Is America a great country or what?
"I have to testify before the 9/11 Commission soon. They're going to ask me all sorts of questions about why my September 10, 2001 request for budget increases covered 68 programs but none of them related to counter-terrorism, and why my memorandum to heads of all departments at Justice stating my seven priorities didn't include counter-terrorism, and why I turned down an FBI request for hundreds of agents to be assigned to tracking terrorist threats. I'm going to have to lie and spin like crazy to get out of those corners. I wonder if they'll believe me when I say I never saw the famous August 6, 2001 PDB memo about Al Qaida's plans for domestic terrorism.
"But Condi was a good role model: No matter what question they ask you, stick to your talking points -- hindsight is 20-20, we were actively engaged in anti-terrorism programs, national security was our prime concern, we had no specific information, we didn't know anything that we could operate on, those beneath me didn't connect the dots, it's their fault, the dog at my homework, and so on.
"I'm rehearsing the Ashcroft Glare for those times when they get too close to 'national security' matters -- meaning, of course, too close to embarrassing revelations -- and I'll firmly suggest that to question my actions and those of the President in such a forum is to give aid and comfort to our enemies. But that may not work as well this time out. It's a different climate than right after 9/11, and I'm not sure we can totally count on all of our Republican appointees to the commission to toe the line.
"Oh well, if worse comes to worst, we'll take the hit from their report that's due out in July, and spin like crazy. Besides, the election isn't until November and the American people are notoriously forgetful and intolerant of 'old news.' Besides, I can 100% guarantee that we'll be able to distract their attention from our gross failures. We'll get through this, and, after victory in November -- or if the election has to be postponed because of terrorism -- we'll take care of those who tried to do us in. A whole lot of people are going to be 'vacationing' in Git-- " Blank.
I tried to give another spray to Ashcroft to hear the rest of that threat, but the bottle was dry. Oh well, I'd heard enough anyway for today. You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the B.S. is blowing.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D, has taught government & international relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits the progressive website The Crisis Papers ( http://www.crisispapers.org).
* Read about the first experiment, "B. S. Away!" -- The Miracle Truth-Spray"
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