<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- Like their Soviet predecessors, the top leaders of the American politburo -- Dick Cheney and George W. Bush -- never admit their mistakes or acknowledge their authoritarian policies and police-state oppression. The very thought of apologizing for failures and injustice -- no matter how disastrous and obvious -- is repugnant to such regimes.

Comrades Cheney and Bush get away with their propaganda with the unflinching support of the American Pravda -- right-wing talk radio, the Fox News Channel, televangelists and the hallelujah chorus of evangelical preachers who use their pulpits to preach the party line. To a somewhat lesser extent, the corporate media -- with a few noble exceptions -- join in the unrelenting campaign to distort, deceive and lie about the administration's past failures and future plans.

The old Stalinists would treat the truth of their horrible deeds with feigned disbelief and denial.

"Oh, that agricultural production problem in the Ukraine. There's no famine. It's just opponents of the people complaining and creating trouble. There is no gulag. We have no political prisoners. Our security police and the peoples' courts of justice will protect us from our enemies within and foreign interventionists."

That is not different in style from Bushevik mantras like: "Our tax cuts for the rich will create jobs, put food on the table and help working-class Americans. Our ownership society will bring a better life to middle-class people."

Or: "America stands for freedom and liberty and we will fight tyranny wherever it is found. Our administration is against torture and we always stand for basic human and constitutional rights. Our new powers are only to protect the people and our homeland from terrorists."

Sure, Cheney and Bush may toss out euphemisms like "miscalculation" or "underestimated," but the big guys are always infallible in strategy and incapable of contrition.

They occasionally do allow their apparatchiks to take the heat for failures, usually for some tactical reason and in the face of overwhelming evidence that the regime got it wrong. Such admissions are always offered with the addendum that Cheney and Bush were far removed from the bad decisions and thus are in no way responsible for whatever went wrong.

Former CIA Director George Tenet said that "we made mistakes" with pre-9/11 intelligence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted the administration "failed to predict the strength of Iraqi insurgence." Former Secretary of State Colin Powell once said, with laughable understatement, that the administration's foreign policy "has not been error-free from the start." Groveling for quick Senate confirmation to become secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice was forced to admit that "there were some bad decisions" made by the Bush administration in regard to Iraq.

Richard Clarke, Rice's former top counterterrorism adviser, did ask for forgiveness when he testified before the 9/11 Commission about the Bush administration's failure to thwart the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.

"Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. I failed you," Clarke told the commission.

While Clarke admitted his failures and apologized, the Busheviks still insist they did everything possible to prevent the attacks, even as evidence mounts showing that is not true. For the first time, we now have the full text of Clarke's January 2001 proposal and memo given to Condoleezza Rice outlining a plan to eliminate the threat from al-Qaeda.

Clarke wrote in his 13-page proposal that the CIA had "prepared a program" focused on eliminating Afghanistan as the haven al-Qaeda was using for its operations. He urged immediate action to destroy camps there. Clarke said the Bush administration ignored his dire warnings about the imminent danger bin Laden and his terrorist organization posed to the United States.

Clarke wrote to Rice that "an extensive network of al-Qaeda 'sleeper' agents currently exists in the U.S.," and he warned that "we would make a major error if we underestimate the challenge al-Qaeda poses." He pressed for "major presidential policy reviews" of the terrorist threat, including a meeting of the "principals" -- the president's top foreign policy advisers -- to review his proposals.

Clarke could not have been more explicit, writing, "We urgently need such a Principals' level review of the al-Qaeda network." Clarke underscored and italicized the word "urgently." Shortly after he submitted his plan, Rice demoted Clarke. She put off the meeting he believed was vital for national security for nine months, until a week before the Sept. 11 attacks.

When Clarke began blowing the lid off the Bush administration's negligence, Rice wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post reflecting her extensive knowledge of the skill her Soviet Union counterparts had in rewriting history. Rice admitted Clarke had offered "several ideas," but insisted that "no al-Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration." I guess it all depends on what the word "plan" means.

We now know that the Federal Aviation Administration received dozens of intelligence reports in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks warning that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were planning airline hijackings and suicide operations. The Bush regime blocked, for more than five months, public access to a section of the 9/11 Commission report detailing the FAA's failure to heed the warnings and take steps to try to stop an attack on airlines.

We now learn -- after the election, of course -- that leaders of the FAA received 52 separate intelligence reports during the period between April of 2001 and Sept. 10, 2001, mentioning bin Laden and al-Qaeda and their focus on airplanes as tools of terror. The commission report notes that officials from the Bush FAA were "lulled into a false sense of security" and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures."

The report adds that the FAA leadership, surely inspired by the business-friendly administration, appeared more concerned with easing the airlines' financial woes, reducing congestion and cutting flight delays than in deterring a terrorist attack.

Families of the Sept. 11 victims are outraged.

"The fact of the matter is these warnings were out there and nobody did anything about it," Bill Doyle told Newsday. His son Joseph Doyle died at the World Trade Center. Bill Doyle said people testified at the 9/11 hearings that there were no warnings. He insists someone from the FAA should be held responsible.

"My biggest concern is how high up did this get into the administration," Doyle said.

That's easy. Right to the top.

Remember, the 9/11 Commission was forced to subpoena FAA officials to produce documents and tapes needed for its investigation. The head of the FAA reports to the secretary of transportation, who reports to the president. Does anyone seriously believe FAA bureaucrats were balking and stonewalling the commission on their own, without the knowledge and blessings of Cheney and Bush? They had plenty to hide and did their best to suppress the truth.

We may never know the truth about how many people -- U.S. citizens and others -- have been detained, imprisoned and tortured under the guise of protecting us from terrorists. The Justice Department has never revealed how many people were rounded up and held after the 9/11 attacks. Most were imprisoned and denied contact with their families. Many still are not given access to lawyers. Some are locked in hellholes in the United States and Guantanamo, Cuba, and some have been whisked away to foreign locations where torture is commonplace.

The case of Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer, provides a revealing and frightening glimpse of the Bush administration's devotion to the kind of tactics Stalin's top enforcer, Lavrenti Beria, found effective. In the Feb. 14, 2005 issue of the "New Yorker" magazine, Jane Mayer wrote an excellent and chilling account of Arar's ordeal, showing how our government makes up its own rules, disregards international law and outsources torture.

Arar, a 34-year-old McGill University graduate, emigrated from Syria with his family when he was a teen-ager. On September 26, 2002, Arar arrived at JFK Airport in New York, returning from a vacation with his family in Tunisia. He planned to make a connection there for the last leg of his flight home to Canada. Instead, federal agents pounced on and detained him because his name appeared on a U.S. watch list of suspected terrorists. He was held for the next 13 days and questioned about another suspect. Arar hardly knew the man, but he told his interrogators he had once worked with the man's brother.

In a flash, Arar, who was never charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons and was whisked away in an executive jet to Amman, Jordan. There, he was subjected to months of brutal interrogation and torture. Arar said he was repeatedly beaten with thick electrical cables and stuffed into a windowless cell that he said reminded him of a grave.

Arar related that horrible experience to Mayer, and -- using the Arabic idiom -- described the pain as so unbearable that "you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother."

Mayer reminds us that, on Jan. 27, Bush assured the world in a New York Times interview that "torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture." In fact, that's exactly what we do. Under a secretive dirty program called "extraordinary rendition," federal operatives, called the Special Removal Unit, have transported uncharged individuals to countries where torture is used, especially in the Middle East, to squeeze anything out of them. The truth of what they say matters little. Arar says that eventually he confessed to anything his tormentors wanted to hear.

"You give up. You become an animal," he told the "New Yorker."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while White House Counsel, wrote memos outlining the crypto-legal basis for using "extraordinary rendition" any time the commander in chief wants to, without explanation or any judicial review. These are the same powers Stalin enjoyed.

A year later, after the intervention of the Canadian government, Arar was released without ever being charged. The Bush regime has never apologized to Arar or Canada for what happened. Arar is suing the U.S. government for his suffering. Justice Department lawyers are evoking the rarely used "states secrets privilege" in a motion to get the suit dismissed.

There is no accounting for people removed through "extraordinary rendition." Some of them, no doubt, faced an end Stalin preferred. "Death solves all problems -- no man, no problem," the Soviet leader once said.

Last week, the American media was enthralled with the big news from Great Britain -- Prince Charlie will finally marry his longtime squeeze, Camilla Parker-Bowles. I wish them well, regretting the royal couple is unlikely to produce any progeny. I'd just love to see what you get when you mate a basset hound with a rottweiler.

The more significant news from the United Kingdom was an apology. Three decades after being wrongfully jailed as IRA terrorists and convicted of bombing English pubs, the British government issued a public apology for the notorious miscarriage of justice that saw 11 people jailed for crimes they did not commit.

Four of them -- the "Guildford Four" -- were sentenced to life in prison, and their story was immortalized in the superb 1993 film, "In the Name of the Father." They were framed, the government hid evidence of their innocence and they made confessions with guns pointed at their heads. When they were arrested in 1974, the British had suspended some liberties to pursue terrorists.

Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, called on Prime Minister Blair to remove "the stain on the character of British justice" and apologize for the wrongful imprisonments.

Blair, belatedly but graciously, obliged, saying, "I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice. They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."

Perhaps, in about 2033, an American leader will recognize the stain on the character of American justice the present regime has made and utter similar words -- unless, God forbid, the president's name is Bush.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Feb. 15 2005