Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lies about our Vote, our Government, and our History

The common theme in several news stories recently is how we much we have been and are being lied to, and on matters of incredibly important significance.

Robert Koehler, in his syndicated column of 11/24/05, talks about an issue few in the mainstream dare touch: the wild discrepancies - 40 points in one case, between pre-election polls and results in the most recent Ohio election. To an unbiased eye, this would be clear cause for a recount, a serious investigation of the voting machines and procedures, and several stories in the mainstream. But the media in Ohio and the nation has for the most part turned a blind eye to the greatest single threat to our democracy: the possibility that our votes are no longer being counted the way they were cast in some parts of this country:
Why, I wonder, in a state that made a national spectacle of itself with widespread irregularities and voter disenfranchisement a year ago, would there be so little interest in investigating whether the “voting chaos” reported by the Toledo Blade or the “night of surprises” reported by the Dayton Daily News could have produced tainted results?

“One problem discovered Tuesday: Some machines began registering votes for the wrong item when voters touched the screen correctly,” wrote Jim Bebbington in the Daily News. “Those machines had lost their calibration during shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated.”

But the spark won’t jump in the media mind. You know: Hmm, we have widespread confusion in the voting process, a recent GAO report that cites many glaring insecurities in e-voting, and our own polls indicating big victories that turn into big defeats. Could it be …? Nah! What are we thinking? This is the world’s greatest democracy.
Reality often sucks, and maybe that's the reason people are so willing to avoid it. In the Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten takes on Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss over their lies regarding Iraq. Regarding Cheney, Rutten wrote:
Monday, Cheney told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute that anyone who suggested that President Bush or anyone in his administration had made the case for invading Iraq by distorting or exaggerating prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein's purported possession of biological or nuclear weapons was guilty of historical "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety." According to the vice president, "any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false" and the product of a "self-defeating pessimism."


Just 24 hours earlier, The Times' Bob Drogin and John Goetz had described in vivid and convincing detail how the administration exaggerated and recklessly misused intelligence concerning Hussein's alleged manufacture of biological weapons that was provided by the now notorious Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball." (Who says spooks don't have a sense of humor?) As Drogin and Goetz reported, Curveball's handlers in Germany, where he sought political asylum, repeatedly warned their American counterparts that their informant was an unreliable — possibly unstable — fabricator. Still, both Bush and then Secretary of State Colin L. Powell incorporated his fantasies into their arguments for war. Conscientious CIA agents who had tried to blow the whistle on a deceit the administration found deliciously convenient were dispatched to windowless offices without telephones.
Even so, Rutten notes that Cheney got one key point right:
Deliberately falsifying history for mere political advantage is a particularly noxious social perversion. It is, to borrow, his stingingly apt adjective, "reprehensible."
Regarding Goss, Rutten noted Goss's incredible statement that the CIA "does not torture." As Rutten wrote:
Fortunately, some of the people forced to work for Goss have consciences stronger than their stomachs. The interrogation techniques they described to ABC News don't sound particularly "innovative or unique," though they do sound exactly like torture. For example, there's "shaking or striking" prisoners to cause pain and fear. Then there's forcing a prisoner with shackled hands and feet to stand upright for as long as 40 hours. Others are placed naked in freezing cells and periodically doused with cold water.

The best, though, is something called "waterboarding," which ABC's CIA sources described this way: "The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt."

Wednesday, in an editorial that went right to the point, the Washington Post wondered: "Are these techniques 'not torture,' as Mr. Goss claims? In fact, several of them have been practiced by repressive regimes around the world, and they once were routinely condemned by the State Department in its annual human rights reports. By insisting that they are not torture, Mr. Goss sets a new standard — both for the treatment of detainees by other governments and for the handling of captive Americans. If an American pilot is captured in the Middle East, then beaten, held naked in a cold cell and subjected to simulated drowning, will Mr. Goss say he has not been tortured?"
Rutten also made a most eloquent plea for a genuine study of history, saying:
Properly punctuating the past is not revisionism. Sane and mature societies — no less than individuals — accept that they have an obligation to parse what was as a way to understand more clearly what is. We do not overstate when we describe this as a moral duty. History, after all, is our collective memory, though we also must recognize that — even with the best of wills — it inevitably is selective and fallible.

That's why Cheney is right about at least one thing: Deliberately falsifying history for mere political advantage is a particularly noxious social perversion. It is, to borrow, his stingingly apt adjective, "reprehensible."

But candid recollection and sober reflection do not amount to revisionism — unless, of course, you're already committed to self-deception and determined to convince others to live with your lie.
Amen, Rutten. Amen. We must find out what our real history is, or we are condemned not only to repeat it, but to chase in vain after things that aren't broken while we let the real rot go untreated.

So in the spirit of appropriate revisionism, consider our next story.

Gerald McKnight tells us how much we have been lied to regarding not just the Kennedy assassination, but also the Kennedy administration. One of the most persistent assertions, spoken almost entirely by CIA employees who may be self-serving in this regard, is the notion that the Kennedy brothers were trying to kill Castro. Bobby heard these accusations while he was still alive, and complained to Dick Goodwin about it, saying he was the one trying to save Castro's life. McKnight writes about what I consider the single best piece of evidence showing the CIA did NOT get permission from the Kennedys in their attempts to kill Castro: the CIA's internal Inspector General report on the Castro assassination plots:
Another persistent theme during the Kennedy years was the deadly business of assassination of political leaders. “Executive Action” operations against foreign leaders posed no moral dilemma for some of the CIA’s senior officers if the removal of those people would advance U.S. aims. In May 1961, Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, was ambushed and killed by coup plotters with guns furnished by the CIA. Trujillo was on the CIA’s hit list, and the agency was associated with the plotters who assassinated the Dominican strongman.

The Trujillo assassination occurred on Kennedy’s watch, but at the time the president knew nothing of the CIA’s “Executive Action” operations and history. Kennedy learned about the program by happenstance a year after he entered the White House when FBI director Hoover brought it to his attention. When the Kennedys learned of these pre–Bay of Pigs CIA-mafia plots, the attorney general demanded an explanation. On May 7, 1962, Robert Kennedy met with Lawrence Houston, the CIA’s general counsel, and Col. Sheffield Edwards, director of the Office of Security, for a briefing on the CIA’s contacts with gangster elements. When the attorney general insisted that there be no more contact with mafia chieftains without first consulting him, Edwards assured Kennedy that all CIA-mafia plots had been terminated. But the CIA’s own 1967 inspector general’s report noted that Bobby Kennedy was never told that after the May meeting the “CIA had a continuing involvement with U.S. gangster elements.” Edwards had lied to the attorney general.
In the IG report, the CIA asks and answers whether they can claim they had executive authority to pursue these plots:
Can CIA state or imply that it was merely an instrument of policy?

Not in this case.

While it is true that Phase Two was carried out in an atmosphere of intense Kennedy administration pressure to do something about Castro, such is not true of the earlier phase. Phase One was initiated in August 1960 under the Eisenhower administration. Phase Two is associated in Harvey's mind with the Executive Action Capability, which reportedly was developed in response to White House urgings. Again, Phase One had been started and abandoned months before the Executive Action Capability appeared on the scene.When Robert Kennedy was briefed on Phase One in May 1962, he strongly admonished Houston and Edwards to check with the Attorney General in advance of any future intended use of U.S. criminal elements. This was not done with respect to Phase Two, which was already well under way at the time Kennedy was briefed.
If you look at this closely, you will realize the CIA is saying they only told Robert Kennedy about the Phase One plots, which had already ended, and had not told him about the Phase Two plots, which were continuing. Could it be that the pushers of the "Kennedys authorized it" story are doing so to take away the single largest motive for the CIA to have killed the Kennedys, the fact that they were so at war with each other that the CIA refused to honor direct orders from the President and ran their own agenda instead? I want to know. I have to know, to understand what happened, and what it meant.

As Rutten said, understanding our true history is not simply important, but a moral duty. Kudos to the readers of this blog who pursue their own quest in that regard.


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