May 20, 2005

Does Anyone Give A Shit?

So. The Downing Street "smoking gun" memo has been blasted off the front pages - if it was ever going to get there - by the orchestrated hysteria around Mike Isakoff's Newsweek toilet story. Another PR victory for the Goebbels imitators in the White House.

The parralels between these two stories are hard to ignore. As Juan Cole says:
When Newsweek's source admitted that he had misidentified the government document in which he had seen an account of Quran desecration at Guantánamo prison, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita exploded, "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?"

Di Rita could have said the same things about his bosses in the Bush administration.

Tens of thousands of people are dead in Iraq, including more than 1,600 U.S. soldiers and Marines, because of false allegations made by President George W. Bush and Di Rita's more immediate boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, about Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and equally imaginary active nuclear weapons program.
Cole has carefully documented the whole sad story of Bush's lies and deceptions, detailing a host of earlier stories that back up the smoking gun memo. Read his article at This is likely to become the first point of reference on the matter for some time to come:
...every single piece of evidence we now have confirms that George W. Bush, who was obsessed with unseating Saddam Hussein even before 9/11, recklessly used the opportunity presented by the terror attacks to march the country to war, fixing the intelligence to justify his decision, and lying to the American people about the reasons for the war. In other times, this might have been an impeachable offense.
Yep, times sure have changed. Greg Palast makes a similar point:
In the old days, Isakoff's discovery would have led to Congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offence. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isakoff would have collected his Pulitzer.

No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush Administration went after the guy who REPORTED the crime, Isakoff.

Was there a problem with the story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witnesses has confirmed that the Koran was defiled.

Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them.
Palast argues that the 32-year-old Watergate scandal would never be revealed these days because it involved a hidden source versus official denial. He says unnamed sources are now "OK if they defend Bush, unacceptable if they expose the Administration's mendacity or evil".

To illustrate the point, Palast tells an illuminating story about the state of reporting in today's USA:
A few years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on Washington, Isakoff gave me some hard, hot stuff on Bill Clinton -- not the cheap intern-under-the-desk gossip -- but an FBI report for me to publish in The Guardian of Britain.

I asked Isakoff why he didn't put it in Newsweek or in the Post.

He said, when it comes to issues of substance, "No one gives a sh--," not the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their US target audience is small-minded, ignorant and wants to stay that way.
Before 9/11, hardly anybody in the USA gave a shit about Al Quaeda, the Middle East, or the rest of the world for that matter. I hate to say it, but it seems that only another 9/11 will shake the US public out of it's self-induced stupor.

To quote Cole again:
When Americans realize Bush's war hasn't made them safer, they'll be outraged at his lies.
That's assuming they even give a shit.

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