Saturday, July 01, 2006

Substitute Enemies

The administration needs to hire David Copperfield. That way you have someone who can really distract the public when you need to hide your mistakes.
Can't Win the War? Bomb the Press! - New York Times: "No sooner were the flag burners hustled offstage than a new traitor was unveiled for the Fourth: the press. Public enemy No. 1 is The New York Times, which was accused of a 'disgraceful' compromise of national security (by President Bush) and treason (by Representative Peter King of New York and the Coulter amen chorus). The Times's offense was to publish a front-page article about a comprehensive American effort to track terrorists with the aid of a Belgian consortium, Swift, which serves as a clearinghouse for some 7,800 financial institutions in 200 countries.

It was a solid piece of journalism. But if you want to learn the truly dirty secrets of how our government prosecutes this war, the story of how it vilified The Times is more damning than anything in the article that caused the uproar.
Only a terrorist who couldn't shoot straight would assume that Swift was not part of the American effort to stalk terrorist transactions; that's tantamount to assuming that cops would track down license plate numbers without enlisting the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Or so he said Friday morning, June 23. By Monday, the president had entered the fray and Mr. Snow was accusing The Times of putting the "public's right to know" over "somebody's right to live." What had happened over the weekend to prompt this escalation of hysteria? The same stuff that always happens when the White House scapegoats the press (or anyone else): bad and embarrassing news that the White House wants to drown out.

One such looming embarrassment was that breathless arrest in Miami of what federal authorities billed as a "homegrown terrorist cell." This amazing feat of derring-do had all the melodramatic trappings of a carefully staged administration P.R. extravaganza. On June 22, the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller, just happened to be on "Larry King Live" speaking about his concerns about "homegrown terrorists" when, by a remarkable coincidence, Larry King announced a "report just in" from a Miami station on a federal terrorism investigation. The next day — the same day the Swift story was published — brought the full-dress dog-and-pony show by the intrepid attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

But rain soon started to fall on this parade. The seven men accused of plotting to take down the Sears Tower in Chicago and collaborate with Al Qaeda on a "full ground war" turned out to have neither weapons nor explosives nor links to Al Qaeda; both the F.B.I. and the Chicago police said there was no operational threat. By Saturday the administration's overhyped victory against terrorists was already deflating into a national punch line, a nostalgic remembrance of John Ashcroft orange terror alerts past.

Sunday brought another unwanted revelation (from Michael R. Gordon of The Times): Gen. George Casey Jr., the commander in Iraq, was drafting a plan for sharp troop reductions there, some of them to precede this year's election. Inconveniently enough, the Casey approach was a virtual double for the phased withdrawals advocated by Senate Democrats days earlier and incessantly slurred as "cut-and-run" defeatism by Republicans.
Representative King, so eager to label others treasonous, has humiliating headlines of his own to counteract: he's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who has so little clout and bureaucratic aptitude that he couldn't stop the government led by his own party from stripping New York City, in his home state, of 40 percent of its counterterrorism funding. If there's another terrorist attack, he may be the last person in New York who should accuse others, as he did The Times on the House floor on Thursday, of having blood "on their hands."

Such ravings make it hard not to think of the official assault on The Times and The Washington Post over the Pentagon Papers. In 1972, on the first anniversary of the publication of that classified Pentagon history of the Vietnam War, The Times's managing editor then, A. M. Rosenthal, reminisced in print about the hyperbolic predictions that had been made by the Nixon White House and its supporters: "Codes would be broken. Military security endangered. Foreign governments would be afraid to deal with us. There would be nothing secret left." None of that happened. What did happen was that Americans learned "how secrecy had become a way of life" for a government whose clandestine policy decisions had fomented a disaster.

The assault on a free press during our own wartime should be recognized for what it is: another desperate ploy by officials trying to hide their own lethal mistakes in the shadows. It's the antithesis of everything we celebrate with the blazing lights of Independence Day. "
Independence from what? We are dependent on oil, we are dependent on credit, we are dependent on infotainment in lieu of real news, we are dependent on these jokers to protect us, what more did you expect? They think we are so dumb (not that we do anything to disabuse them of this notion) that we will overlook anything in the futile pursuit of protecting America. And yes, it is futile. No plan is foolproof, because fools are so ingenius.

Exhibit A? Dear Leader.

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