<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- Delay, deny and deceive -- the trinity of George W. Bush's presidency -- can be found everywhere these troubled days.

First, the news before it happens.

"In a 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court has ruled President Bush does not have to turn over subpoenaed documents to the commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The same justices who supported Bush's position selected him to be president in the disputed 2000 election. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, declared, 'When you come right down to it, the president is king and he can do what he wants. The rule of law is overrated, especially when our president demands his way during times of danger. We put him in power for a reason and protecting him from outside scrutiny serves our national interests.'"

Back to the present.

The bipartisan federal commission has voted to subpoena documents the Bush administration has failed to produce. The Bush crowd initially opposed the creation of the independent commission to investigate the intelligence and law enforcement failures prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Under pressure from the families of the victims, the president relented and ostensibly supported the commission, but since then his minions have engaged in a pattern of deliberate delays and stonewalling.

The 10-member panel, headed by Thomas Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, has encountered "serious delays" in getting information from the Defense Department. Specifically, the panel wants to examine the actions or failures to take action involving the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

What was NORAD doing the morning of Sept. 11 when it became known hijacked planes were in the air? How did the Defense Command react and carry out its responsibility to protect American airspace? Could anything have been done to prevent the attacks?

Those are vital questions that must be answered for the American people to better understand what happened and how to prevent future attacks. The commission wants to look at documents, transcripts and tapes. How else could the job be done?

But the panel said, in announcing the subpoena, "In several cases, we were assured that all requested records had been produced, but we then discovered, through investigation, that these assurances were mistaken. We are especially dismayed by problems in the production of records of activities of NORAD and certain Air Force Commands on Sept. 11."

The White House resistance will only get worse. Already the commission has been forced to issue a subpoena to the Federal Aviation Administration in an attempt to get information, and the CIA is sure to be next on the subpoena list.

George W. Bush fears any independent review of his actions, and he's already kicking and screaming about the panel's demand for access to daily CIA briefing reports. The highly classified documents -- called the President's Daily Briefs, or PDBs -- will show exactly what George W. Bush knew and when he knew it.

The White House has already admitted one of the PDB reports in August 2001 referred to the possibility al-Qaeda was planning to hijack passenger planes to carry out terrorist attacks. More detail on that will be revealing.

Remember, that entire month before the attacks, the president was vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, spending considerable time chopping wood and playing video games.

His national security team was focused on creating a missile defense system, to the delight of military contractors, and his Justice Department was preoccupied with the costly and ineffective war on drugs. The threat of bin Laden's terror attacks was not given much attention.

We already know the CIA failed to share intelligence information about known terrorists in the country with the FBI.

The terrorists, mostly Saudis, attending flight training schools, caught the eye of some alert FBI agents, but the brass at John Ashcroft's FBI thwarted the agents' requests for search warrants.

What the Justice Department, the Defense Department, the National Security Council, the CIA and White House staff were doing about terrorist threats in the eight months prior to Sept. 11 gets to the heart of the questions and issues George W. Bush would like to see disappear.

When asked about cooperation with the commission, the president said, ever so disingenuously, "I want to be helpful," while his people are doing everything possible not to be helpful.

But Bush might have inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he expressed concern that review of the requested documents would get "politicized."

Well, if the CIA reports show warnings were ignored, mistakes were made and there were major screw-ups, of course there will be political implications. Those things happen in an open and free society.

The administration is using the same stonewalling tactics with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the bogus information used to bolster the claims that Saddam Hussein was hell-bent to develop nuclear weapons. The White House always delays responses to the committee's requests for information, still denies the intelligence was shaped and doctored, and the president is back to that threadbare deception of using Iraq and Sept. 11 in the same sentence.

While the president vows "to know the truth" and promises cooperation with the Justice Department investigation into whether someone in the White House illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative, administration lawyers are looking for a way of shielding documents.

The Boston Globe reports the Bush crowd is considering invoking executive privilege to keep some information away from the Justice Department probe. White House staffers have been ordered to turn over all notes, e-mails, phone logs and anything else that possibly relates to the disclosure of the CIA officer's name.

Bush has already said, before the investigation is anywhere near complete, that the identity of the leaker may never be known. Oh, his prophetic soul. The claim of executive privilege brings back thoughts of presidents caught in scandals using the power of their office to keep the lid on information that could be politically damaging.

Executive privilege is supposed to protect the president's internal decision-making process. "

It's used to shroud advice that's sometimes inflammatory or has been rejected," American University law professor Thomas Sargentich told the Globe. "Executive privilege is not supposed to be a shield in criminal investigations."

That won't stop the Bush cover-up gang from trying to use it.

The administration is downplaying the significance of an 11th-hour peace overture from Iraq last March. New York Times reporter James Risen learned Iraq's intelligence service approached a Lebanese-American businessman to carry a message to Washington: Baghdad no longer had any unconventional weapons and it was willing to let American troops and experts conduct their own search to confirm this.

The Bush administration, already on the road to invasion, did not even consider the offer, which might have been a way to avoid war and the long and bloody occupation of Iraq we're now stuck in.

In a masterful analysis in the Nov. 2 "New York Times Magazine," David Rieff looks at how the Bush administration's pre-war planners bungled post-war Iraq. The article is entitled "Who Botched the Occupation?" The short answer is Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, all the arrogant neocon warmongers, and most of all George W. Bush for listening to those crazies.

They bought the lies and deceptions of Iraqi exile and professional fraud Ahmad Chalabi, totally rejected the State Department's findings in the Future of Iraq Project, did little planning, and did it too late, committed too few troops, neglected humanitarian need and ignored the Shiites.

Every day American men and women, along with Iraqis, suffer because of that catastrophic failure. Where is the accountability for such colossal mismanagement?

The most celebrated suffering American from the war is Jessica Lynch, and she finally goes public with her account of what happened in her capture and rescue. Lynch tells ABC News she feels hurt and ashamed because accounts of her actions were overstatements that amounted to patriotic fable.

Lynch, after months of seclusion, says the exaggerations disturb her.

"Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong," she tells Diane Sawyer.

Lynch performed valiantly, suffered serious wounds and there are indications she may have been sexually assaulted. Why would her ordeal have to be embellished?

The military provided a green-tinted, night-vision video of Lynch's daring rescue.

Reports claimed U.S. soldiers exchanged gunfire with Iraqis to pull it off. Lynch, anonymous military sources told the media, had fought her capture and emptied her rifle resisting attackers.

All nonsense. Pentagon flacks created the events, sold them to gullible reporters looking for a heroic story and the American people bought the deceptive feel-good yarn. Lynch credits Iraqi medical people with keeping her alive.

Why hasn't Rummy tried to find out who created the Lynch fable and why the deception was used?

Another deception is the Pentagon's refusal to allow video of the remains of killed troops returning from Iraq. It's a clear attempt to sanitize the bloody horrors of the war. The administration does not want to remind the American people that the deaths occur nearly every day.

That's why the president only mentions those dying in the occupation in vague ways, as "brave defenders," and he doesn't do funerals. At his first public appearance following the downing of that Chinook helicopter, which claimed 15 lives, the bloodiest day in seven months, the president didn't mention a word about it.

Death was too unpleasant to bring up at the fund-raising luncheon in Birmingham, Ala., where Bush raked in a cool $1.8 million for his campaign. He did use his old refrain that we're striking at terrorists in Iraq, "defeating them there so we will not have to face them in our own country." Now even rich Alabama Republicans ought to see through that deception.

Finally, though, a sign that the truth occasionally does pay off.

The late Joan Kroc, keeper of her husband's McDonald's Corp. fortune, left a gift for National Public Radio.

That's the news organization whose listeners a recent study found to be best informed and least deceived on factual matters relating to the war in Iraq and terrorism.

Mrs. Kroc bequeathed $200 million to NPR -- money that will be well spent to keep Americans better informed.

The president says he gets his news from his staff, "briefed by people who probably read the news themselves." He says he glances at headlines. "I rarely read the stories," the president told the Fox News Channel's Brit Hume during a softball interview.

Bush added that he understands "that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news." Hume responded solemnly, "I won't disagree with that, sir."

Interesting, since the same study found Fox News Channel viewers were the most frequently misinformed on the fundamental facts about the war in Iraq. Perhaps too many opinions sold as facts. No. Shame on me for even thinking that.

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 November 11 2003