I guess George Washington was a conspiracy theorist too.
The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
Mount Vernon, October 24, 1798.
Revd Sir: I have your favor of the 17th. instant before me; and my only motive to trouble you with the receipt of this letter, is to explain, and correct a mistake which I perceive the hurry in which I am obliged, often, to write letters, have led you into.
It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.
My occupations are such, that but little leisure is allowed me to read News Papers, or Books of any kind; the reading of letters, and preparing answers, absorb much of my time. With respect, etc.
Images from the Library of Congress Archive.
I have to say, I really like what Russell Brand has to say here. Sure, I have my suspicions about Woolwich, but the words reprinted below are universal and bear repeating.
The news cycle moves so quickly now that often we learn of an event through other people’s reaction to it. So it was when I arrived in Los Angeles to find my twitter feed contorted with posts of fear and confusion.
I caught up with the sad malice in Woolwich and felt compelled to tweet in casual defense of the Muslim community who were being haphazardly condemned by a few people on my time line. Perhaps a bit glibly (but what isn’t glib in 140 characters) I put “That bloke is a nut. A nut who happens to be Muslim. Blaming Muslims for this is like blaming Hitler’s moustache for the Holocaust”.
As an analogy it is imperfect but I was frightened by how negative and incendiary the mood felt and I rushed. I’m not proposing we sit around trying to summons up cute analogies when Lee Rigby has lost his life in horrific circumstances I simply feel that it is important that our reaction is measured. Something about the arbitrary brutality, the humdrum high-street setting, the cool rhetoric of the blood stained murderer evoke a powerful and inherently irrational response. When I first heard the word “beheading” I felt the atavistic grumble that we all feel. This is inhumane, taboo, not a result of passion but of malice, ritualistic. “If this is happening to guiltless men on our streets it could happen to me” I thought.
Then I watched the mobile phone clip. In spite of his dispassionate intoning the subject is not rational, of course he’s not rational, he’s just murdered a stranger in the street, he says, because of a book.
In my view that man is severely mentally ill and has found a convenient conduit for his insanity, in this case the Quran. In the case of another mentally ill and desperate man, Mark Chapman, it was A Catcher In The Rye. This was the nominated text for his rationalisation of the murder of John Lennon. I’ve read that book and I’ve read some of the Quran and nothing in either of them has compelled me to do violence. Perhaps this is because I lack the other necessary ingredients for extreme anti social behaviour; mental illness and isolation; either economic, social or both.
After my Hitler tweet I got involved in a bit of back and forth with a few people who said stuff like “the murderer said himself he did it for Islam”. Although I wouldn’t dismiss what he’s saying entirely I think he forfeited the right to have his views received unthinkingly when he murdered a stranger in the street. Someone else regarding my tweet said “Hitler’s moustache didn’t invent an ideology that sanctions murder”. That is thankfully true but Islam when practiced by normal people is not an advocacy for violence. “People all over the world are killing in the name of Islam” someone added. This is the most tricky bit to understand. What I think is that all over our country, all over our planet there are huge numbers of people who feel alienated and sometimes victimised by the privileged and the powerful, whether that’s rich people, powerful corporations or occupying nations. They feel that their interests are not being represented and, in many cases, know that their friends and families are being murdered by foreign soldiers. I suppose people like that may look to their indigenous theology for validation and to sanctify their, to some degree understandable, feelings of rage.
Comparable, I suppose to the way that homophobes feel a prejudicial pang in their tummies then look to the bible to see if there’s anything in there to justify it. There is, a piddling little bit in Leviticus. The main narrative thrust of The Bible though, like most spiritual texts, including the Quran is; be nice to each other because we’re all the same.
When some football fans smash up shops and beat each other up that isn’t because of football or football clubs. It’s because loads of white, working class men have been culturally neglected and their powerful tribal instincts end up getting sloshed about in riotous lager carnivals. I love football, I love West Ham, I’ve never been involved in football violence because I don’t feel that it’s my only access to social power. Also I’m not that hard and I’m worried I’d get my head kicked in down the New Den.
What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now, violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind.
The extremists on both sides have a shared agenda; cause division, distrust, anger and violence. Both sides have the same intention. We cannot allow them to distort our perception.
The establishment too is relatively happy when different groups of desperate people point the finger at each other because it prevents blame being correctly directed at them. Whenever we are looking for the solution to a problem we must identify who has power. By power I mean influence and money. The answer is not for us to move further from one another, crouched in opposing fortresses constructed from vindictive words. We need now to move closer to one another, to understand one another. If we can take anything heartening from this dreadful attack it is of course the actions of the three women, it’s always women, that boldly guarded Lee Rigby’s body as he lay needlessly murdered. These women looked beyond the fear and chaos and desperation and attuned instead to a higher code. One of virtue, integrity and strength.
To truly demonstrate defiance in the face of this sad violence, we must be loving and compassionate to one another. Let’s look beyond our superficial and fleeting differences. The murderers want angry patriots to desecrate mosques and perpetuate violence. How futile their actions seem if we instead leave flowers at each other’s places of worship. Let’s reach out in the spirit of love and humanity and connect to one another, perhaps we will then see what is really behind this conflict, this division, this hatred and make that our focus.
May 25th, 2013
Reason 3: The Gulf of Mexico oil spill
On April 20 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico a massive explosion and fire devastated BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing eleven members of the crew and ruptured the cement sealing on the drill shaft. Millions of gallons of crude began to gush into the near pristine waters of the gulf, defying all attempts to halt the flow.
For just a few brief weeks this incident was front page news. Due to the pressure the shaft had also developed ruptures deep below the level of the sea floor and try as they might to cap it at the sea bed, the ‘experts brought in by BP were impotent against the immense pressures forcing the oil out into the waters of the Gulf. This made for dramatic headlines for a time; however, a lack of any real development soon had the media looking elsewhere for their drama fix.
Occasionally something weird or unusual enough would draw them back. At one point someone, apparently quite seriously, suggested that a nuke could be used to seal the area around the breach. This got the media’s attention for a moment. They soon lost interest, however, once the plan had been rejected as too risky.
Focus shifted to the company deemed accountable for the disaster; British Petroleum. Obama’s now famous media stunt where he handed off all financial responsibility for the clean up to BP and then basically went off on a holiday was a Bush moment par excellence.
It wasn’t until 15 July that the well was (temporarily) capped and 19 September before it was declared “effectively dead” (whatever that actually means).
There were options available to the massive Mega Corp regarding how to clean up the spill. For instance, special oil eating bacterium could have been released. This has been proven to be an extremely environmentally conscious method that actually eliminates the oil completely from the water.
Instead it was decided that the highly toxic chemical dispersant Corexit would be employed.
Reports began to surface almost immediately about these people becoming ill. Severe skin rashes, headaches and respiratory problems were the first symptoms (violent vomiting was also not uncommon). Still, the dumping continued until there was no evidence of any oil in the gulf; on the surface at least.
What the public was not being told was that Corexit doesn’t eliminate the oil; it simply breaks it down enough so that it will no longer sit on top of the water.
Divers began to report ‘clouds’ of oil in layers beneath the surface. This, however, was largely ignored by the media. Like the beaches, declared oil free after a intensive clean up (just so long as nobody picked up a rock and looked beneath), the water looked clean again and, for most people, that was good enough.
The water may have appeared pristine once more, but something simply wasn’t right. Large numbers of people began to develop serious health problems. Then people and animals began to die. Aggressive cancers, neurological disorders and terrible skin conditions began to haunt the communities around the gulf. The chemical was in the rain.
Throughout, however, the media remained stubbornly silent. The people were given no voice to counter the claims of BP and President Obama that all was now well in the Gulf of Mexico.
However, it wasn’t simply the toxicity that was the problem. There was an even greater environmental disaster brewing.
The Gulf stream is the current, generated in the Gulf of Mexico, which takes the warm waters of the gulf up into the Atlantic region. There’s a reason why Great Britain does not suffer the same devastatingly cold winters that Moscow does, despite being about the same latitude and distance from the Pole. The Gulf Stream brings just enough warmth to the waters of the Atlantic to affect the temperatures on land in places like GB and the North American East coast.
However, there has recently been a spike in cold weather in this region. Britain has seen some of its coldest winters in recent memory and the East coast of the US has been seeing an increase in large storms travelling up from the Gulf to devastate places like New York and New Jersey.
The snake oil types like Mr Gore have been quick to blame anthropogenic climate change and, in a sense, they may be right. It’s probably not carbon emissions that are to blame, however, but rather the huge impact upon the gulf by the twin visitations of a massive leak of oil and gas into the waters and the equally massive dump of chemical dispersants into the very area where the stream is generated.
All indications are that the stream has slowed to such a degree that it may even stop altogether. If this happens, the Northern hemisphere could experience something far worse than mere global warming. The entire world, north of the Equator, could find themselves in the throes of another ice age.
Obviously, I don’t necessarily agree with Mr Hedges’ views on anthropogenic climate change. It is, however, about the only point in this article with which I do not agree whole heartedly.
It may appear to some that he is calling for violent revolution. I believe, however, that it is more a warning of the consequences of our continuance with the current failed system.
There are many ways to ‘rise up’ that don’t involve taking up arms. Even this course, though, could become necessary if peaceful revolutions fail.
By Chris Hedges
May 19, 2013
Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.
What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.
Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.
The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.
Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, mostly likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.
The government’s fierce persecution of the press—an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond—dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal—the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.
A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.
We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.
There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.
More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.
In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.
Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”
Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.
I don’t agree with every point this article makes (particularly on the Oklahoma City bombing – there was much more going on than is here implied). However, in spirit, I find much here with which my own research can and does agree.
I think at this point we should all be able see that the so called ‘awful Internet video’ was a complete fabrication designed to lead a largely compliant press and a ‘give a shit’ public away from the true narrative of weapons smuggling gone wrong.
By Jack Cashill
“We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing do to with,” said Hillary Clinton to the families of the four Americans killed at Benghazi and others gathered at a September 2012 memorial service.
Her boss, President Barack Obama, had been reciting the same lie in one forum after another in the days following the September 11 attack on the American outpost in Benghazi. To give the lie credence, his Justice Department immured the producer of the video, a Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, in a West Texas prison.
Obama appeared to be taking his cues from the Clinton playbook, improvised in their desperate effort to retain the White House after the electoral debacle of November 1994: Shift the narrative, ridicule the critics, bury the truth tellers.
To pull this off, the Clintons would be called upon to shift the narrative no fewer than five times in the two utterly corrupt years before the 1996 election. The media, dismayed by the Newt Gingrich ascendancy, fully enabled them.
Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.
Twenty minutes before the blast that leveled the Murrah Federal building in downtown Oklahoma City employees at a tire store spotted Timothy McVeigh and a short Middle Eastern-looking man in a Ryder truck and gave the pair directions.
Five minutes before the blast, printing operator Jerry Nance noticed an unusual car in the downtown Oklahoma City parking lot. It was a dilapidated yellow Mercury Marquis. Behind the wheel was a dark-skinned, Middle Eastern-looking man in a ball cap.
When Nance walked back towards the car to get some stuff from his own car, the Mercury Marquis almost ran him over. Now, however, the Middle Eastern man was sitting in the passenger seat, and a tall white man was driving the car out of the parking lot, recklessly at that.
Two minutes later, the Murrah building blew up. Nance informed the FBI of this incident and the car before anyone knew McVeigh had been apprehended in a yellow Mercury Marquis.
Another eyewitness, Daina Bradley, cried out to the rescuers who were trying to extricate her after the blast. “It was a Ryder truck. It pulled up, a foreign looking man got out, and then before long, everything went black.”
A week later, the FBI quoted Nance and the tire store employees in its request before a federal judge to hold McVeigh over for trial. The Washington Post of April 28 confirmed the same:
The magistrate, Ronald L. Howland, ordered McVeigh to be held without bail after listening to four hours of testimony from FBI special agent John Hersley in which he described eyewitness accounts of a yellow Mercury with McVeigh and another man inside speeding away from a parking lot near the federal building. (italics mine)
For the next six weeks, John Doe #2 was the most hunted man in the world until, without explanation, he just kind of went away. The narrative had shifted. The White House only needed the two white right-wingers, Terry Nichols and McVeigh. With them as poster children, the media buried Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” in the rubble of the Murrah building.
Dubrovnik, April 3, 1996.
Not one to shy from exploitation of a tragedy, President Bill Clinton profaned the memory of Martin Luther King — who had been killed on April 4, 1968 — by comparing King’s mission to that of his Commerce Secretary Ron Brown who had died the day before when he and 34 others on a USAF plane crashed into a Croatian hillside.
What Clinton did not say was that Brown had gone to Croatia to broker a sweetheart deal between the neo-fascist strongman who ran Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, and the Enron Corporation. This was all part of the Clintons’ desperate drive to raise money for their 1996 reelection campaign.
Brown’s flight left from Tuzla in Bosnia, a Muslim country swarming with mujahideen. This flight came just six months after the Dayton Accords and nine days after Hillary Clinton deviated from her European tour to visit Tuzla (where, by the way, she was buzzed by that apocryphal “sniper fire.”)
The narrative, however, could not even hint at terror. “Brown’s entourage boarded an Air Force T-43 for the coastal town of Dubrovnik,” asserted a Time magazine reporter following the White House’s lead on the cause of the crash, “where one of the worst storms in a decade was raging.”
In reality, when Brown’s plane approached Dubrovnik, it was not raining, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. The Enron executives had taken their own plane and landed safely minutes earlier.
For the first time ever on friendly soil, the White House ordered the Air Force to skip the “safety” phase of the investigation and move directly to the “accident” phase. There was to be no consideration other than accident, even though this airport was near the Bosnian border and in a potential hot fire zone.
The Air Force called the pilot’s nearly two-mile deviation into a Croatian hillside “inexplicable.” No aircraft had ever drifted inland before at that airport. The AWACS data suggested sabotage of the ground-based navigation system, a line of inquiry that the Air Force was not allowed to pursue.
Three days after the crash and two days before his scheduled interview by the Air Force, the Croatian responsible for the airport’s navigation system was found with a bullet hole in his chest. The Croatians called it a suicide.
A day later, every pathologist who viewed Brown’s body concluded that his head wound, at the very least, looked like a bullet hole. In a decision that reached the White House, there was to be no autopsy. The Brown family was not informed. Nor was there any forensic testing or a search for an exit wound.
The Clintons did not want to know the truth about Ron Brown’s death, and they certainly did not want to share it. They used a reluctant Air Force and a nearly mutinous Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to bury Ron Brown as quickly as possible, literally and figuratively.
The three Armed Forces pathologists and the forensic photographer who blew the whistle on this case got to play the “Nakoula” role — they were dispatched to career-killing dead-end jobs.
The fate of Brown confidante and whistleblower, Nolanda Butler Hill, was more unpleasant still. After testifying at a hearing on matters related to Brown, Hill had her lawyer talk to then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. She feared the worst and hoped to head it off.
Holder, however, was not sympathetic. He told Hill’s lawyer that her statements “were getting her into trouble.” “Trouble,” in this case, eventually meant a year in hiding and imprisonment on a bogus tax charge, also in Texas.
On April 14, four days after Brown’s funeral, Clinton watched in shock as his buddy Greg Norman blew a six-stroke lead in the final round of the Masters, the greatest choke in the tournament’s history.
“Yes,” Clinton told press aide, Mike McCurry, “that’s going to be the new theme for the campaign, that we’re not going to allow ourselves to be Greg Normanized.” Clinton was horrified in a way few around him could understand. “We could have a major crisis go bad on us,” he fretted constantly. “Greg Norman,” he repeated to his staff. “Greg Norman.”
Saudi Arabia, June 25, 1996.
Throughout the 1996 election cycle Clinton adviser Dick Morris did not shy from telling the president that despite the lead he scrambled to gain in his contest against Bob Dole, he had “a soft underbelly,” namely that the majority of the voters did not particularly trust or respect him.
Morris was worried that a terrorist act could expose that underbelly in the months leading up to the November election. In June and July of that year the White House had to deal with “three attacks” in what Morris referred to as “the terror summer of 1996.”
On June 25, 1996, a powerful truck bomb exploded outside a U.S. army barracks, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. It killed nineteen American serviceman and wounded hundreds more.
This was undeniably Islamic terrorism. The tough talking President Bill Clinton promised revenge. “The cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished,” he said angrily. “Let me say again: We will pursue this. America takes care of our own. Those who did it must not go unpunished.”
Well, maybe, maybe not. While Clinton was talking tough, Dick Morris was busily conducting polls to gauge the public’s reaction. “Whenever there was a crisis, I ordered an immediate poll,” Morris would later write. “I was concerned about how Clinton looked in the face of [the attack] and whether people blamed him.” It was Greg Norman time at the White House.
Morris’s first poll showed less support for Clinton than he had hoped. But after a good deal of Clintonian bluster, public approval of Clinton’s response climbed. Morris recorded this in his written agenda for a meeting:
SAUDI BOMBING –
Recovered from Friday and looking great
Approve Clinton handling 73-20
Big gain from 63-20 on Friday
Security was adequate 52-40
It’s not Clinton’s fault 76-18
With the political fallout contained, Clinton handed this case off to law enforcement just as he did after the first World Trade Center bombing. But this time, the Clinton administration not only failed to follow useful leads, but it also impeded the investigators. Sound familiar?
So frustrated was FBI head Louis Freeh by Clinton’s obstruction that he asked former president George H. W. Bush to intercede with the Saudi royal family. Bush did, and this new information pointed to Iran as the Clintons suspected it would from day one.
Still, Freeh never got the support he wanted from the Clinton White House. He hung on to his job to 2001 largely to prosecute this case. Just before Freeh left office, in June 2001, attorney general John Ashcroft announced the indictment of fourteen of the terrorists — five years after the fact.
Long Island, New York, July 17, 1996
On this pleasant summer evening, Liberation Day in Saddam’s Iraq and two days before the start of the Atlanta Olympics, hundreds of people saw streaking objects zigzag off the horizon and culminate in the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the south coast of Long Island.
At the time of the crash Clinton sycophant Richard Clarke was serving as chairman of the Coordinating Security Group on terrorism (CSG). Within thirty minutes of the plane’s crash, Clarke would later write, he convened a meeting of the CSG in the White House situation room, the first time ever for a plane crash.
“The FAA,” Clarke reported, was “at a total loss for an explanation.” In fact, the FAA did have an explanation. Its radar operators in New York saw on their screens an unknown object “merging” with TWA 800 in the seconds before the crash and rushed the radar data to Washington.
By mid-August, the FBI had interviewed some 270 people who saw what appeared a missile or missiles attack the plane. This information they did not share with the Times, but they did share with analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, who reinterviewed 34 of the eyewitnesses.
Throughout August, the FBI was telling the New York Times that explosive residue had been found throughout the plane and especially along the right wing. Plus, the FBI’s Washington lab had identified the residue as PETN, a component of either missiles or bombs.
The same Times article called the finding “a serious blow to the already remote possibility that a mechanical accident caused the crash.” On August 23, the New York Times broke a headline story, top right, above the fold — “Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800.”
This article stole the thunder from Clinton’s election-driven approval of welfare reform in that same day’s paper and threatened to undermine the whole peace and prosperity mantra of the Democratic convention just days away. Time for a shift in the narrative.
At about this time, Clarke alleged to have visited the site of the TWA 800 investigation on Long Island. There he casually stopped to talk to a technician, who shared with him the astounding fact that, despite all evidence to the contrary, an exploding fuel tank destroyed TWA Flight 800.
That same day, according to Clarke, he returned to Washington and breathlessly shared his exploding fuel tank theory with chief of staff Leon Panetta and NSA director Tony Lake, even sketching the 747 design.
“Does the NTSB agree with you,” Lake asked Clarke.
“Not yet,” said Clarke. In one chance stroll through the hangar, the amateur Clarke discovered something that the FBI or NTSB has not been able to discover. Clarke then added the telling comment, “We were all cautiously encouraged.” They were “encouraged” because the political people did not want to face the consequences of terrorism. It could derail their cakewalk to reelection.
From this point on, the administration spent all its energies making Clarke’s exploding fuel tank theory stick. The FBI was forced to change its story, and so did the New York Times. When former U.S. Senator Pierre Salinger challenged the White House narrative, the media ridiculed him. When investigative reporter James Sanders undid that narrative, the Justice Department had him and his wife Elizabeth arrested for conspiracy to steal airplane parts. The media remained silent.
Atlanta, July 27, 1996.
The very same day that the Clintons went to Long Island to meet with the TWA Flight 800 families, security guard Richard Jewell was patrolling the grounds of Centennial Park in Atlanta.
Right around midnight Jewell spotted a large, olive-green, military-style backpack, known as an Alice pack, under a bench. He immediately shared this information with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. When the GBI could not find the pack’s owner, the GBI officer and Jewell began to clear an area around the pack.
Soon afterwards, the pack exploded. Two people died and more than a hundred were injured. If this sophisticated 40-pound bomb had not been jostled, and had Jewell not seen it, the bomb might have killed hundreds.
Richard Clarke and the Clinton administration were understandably worried about terrorism, but in the “feel good” Olympic games of 1996, in the lead up to the Clinton renomination, no official even speculated as to whether Islamic terrorists might be behind the Olympic bombing.
Rather than alarm the Olympic-goers and the nation with the possibility of a widespread terror plot, the Clinton Justice Department suppressed information about other bombs that had been defused and blamed the one lethal blast on the transparently innocent Jewell. Its agents then hounded Jewell all the way through the end of October.
Eventually, the bomb would be traced to a crazed anti-abortion activist named Eric Rudolph. The Clintons would have loved to know this in July 1996, but Richard Jewell sufficed.
One final irony. Towards the end of the 1996 campaign the media started challenging Clinton about the illegal Asian money he had been using to fund his campaign. To suggest his own innocence, and the media’s recklessness in accusing him, Clinton compares himself to, yes, Richard Jewell.
And he got away with it. That’s how easy it was to shift the narrative when you had an Internet still in its embryo stage, no Fox News, a fully compliant media, a president who could lie much better than the current one, and a nearly universal belief that anyone who sought the truth was a “conspiracy theorist.”