By Bill Blum
An Unreasonable Man
I recommend the new documentary about Ralph Nader, which was recently shown on PBS television, "An Unreasonable Man". Its primary focus is on Nader's argument for having run in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections despite the alleged harm done to the Democratic Party candidates. As I've written earlier: The choice facing people like myself was not Ralph Nader or Albert Gore or John Kerry. The choice facing us was Ralph Nader or not voting at all. If Nader had not been on the ballot, we would have stayed home. It's that simple. The film shows a clip of a TV network newscast just after the 2000 election in which star news anchors Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw are discussing this very question, and much to my surprise they both come to this same conclusion -- Nader did not cost the Democrats many votes at all. If he had not been on the ballot, the great bulk of his supporters would NOT have voted Democratic instead.
This escapes Nader's critics, such as the two featured in the film, Nation magazine columnist Eric Alterman and author and 60s icon Todd Gitlin. NASA should check them out -- just mention "Ralph Nader" and they go ballistic. They engage in an orgy of angry name calling, labeling Nader an egomaniac, irrational ... "prefabricated purity" ... "borders on the wicked" ... responsible for the Iraq war and the destruction of the environment ... They don't directly challenge anything of substance amongst the views of Nader or his supporters. They're not at all impressed with what I find most exhilarating -- the unique phenomenon of a noted public political figure consistently standing on principle. Nader's critics can't admit that there's principle involved in all this, for fear of revealing their own lack of that quality, as they cling to defending the indefensible -- the idea that the Democratic Party is a force for even liberal change, never mind progressive.
The film also gives time to other Nader critics, amongst them Michael Moore, whom I admire more than the likes of Alterman or Gitlin. However, it shows Moore speaking during the 2000 campaign in behalf of Nader, telling the audience not to be afraid to vote their conscience; it then shows him in 2004, making fun of those who call for voting for one's conscience -- Yes, the hypocrisy is that blatant. Moore is indeed a strange political animal. The maker of "Fahrenheit 911" and "Sicko" was until not long ago a super-avid supporter of Hillary Clinton (admitting to even a sexual crush on her), and he has supported General Wesley Clark for president, a genuine war criminal for his merciless 78-day bombing assault upon Yugoslavia.
Defenders of the Democrats now ask: "Would Al Gore have invaded Iraq?" Maybe not. He might have invaded Iran instead; that apparently was the first choice of Israel and their American lobby. Remember that the Clinton-Gore administration imposed eight years of heartless and needless sanctions upon the people of Iraq, simultaneously bombing them hundreds of times, costing the lives of more than a million people, ruining the lives of millions more. Al Gore has already invaded Iraq.
It's an old and painful story. Democrats can not be trusted ideologically, not even to be consistently liberal, and certainly not progressive or radical, no matter how much we wish we could trust them, no matter how awful the Republicans may be. In 1968 Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota was the darling of the left. He ran in the Democratic presidential primaries on an anti-Vietnam war platform that excited a whole generation of young people. Peaceniks and hippies, the story goes, were getting haircuts, dressing like decent Americans, and forsaking dope, all to be "clean for Gene" and work in his campaign. Yet, in 1980, Gene McCarthy came out in support of Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter.
It's most often foreign policy which separates liberals from those further to the left. In the post World War Two period, one of the most revered American liberals was Senator Hubert Humphrey. But he was at the same time a fanatical anti-communist. In 1954 he introduced a bill to outlaw the Communist Party on the grounds that it was "an illegal conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States by force and violence and not a legitimate political party." When he became Lyndon Johnson's vice-president in 1965 he supported the Vietnam War. Two years later he was actually moved to declare to American troops in Vietnam: "I believe that Vietnam will be marked as the place where the family of man has gained the time it needed to finally break through to a new era of hope and human development and justice. This is the chance we have. This is our great adventure -- and a wonderful one it is."
It was the administration of the liberal Jimmy Carter that instigated the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan in 1979, leading to Washington's decisive role in the overthrow of a government which, compared to what replaced it, was extremely progressive. It was also Carter who gave Iraq the OK to invade Iran in 1980, with terrible consequences for the two countries.
No, I don't know what we should do about our leaders. The US electoral process which we're all suffering through right now, which feels like it's been going on non-stop forever, is replete with continual cries from the leading candidates about some kind of "change". Whatever can they mean? They mean nothing. And the media treats it all like some kind of horse race, a spectator sport. Is there any election system in this world as lacking in intellectual discussion, as hopelessly corrupted by money, and as undemocratic as the one Americans are blessed with? Where else in the world is the candidate with the most votes not necessarily the winner? If we could interview each and every American voter to determine exactly why they voted for a particular candidate, compared to what the actual facts are about that candidate, and the results were widely publicized, it would be such a national embarrassment the next election might be called off. What does winning an election mean other than that the sales campaign was successful? An outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient, and more honest.
Another tale of a liberal
Gilbert Harrison, former editor and publisher of the influential Washington magazine, New Republic, departed this world on January 3. I never met the man, but in 1975, while living in London, I submitted a review of former CIA officer Philip Agee's new book, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary", to the magazine. The book was a shocker, providing more detail about CIA covert operations in Latin America than any book ever written, revealing the names of hundreds of CIA officers, agents, and front organizations. The book had not yet appeared in the United States and the New Republic was pleased to have what would be one of the first reviews. At that time the magazine was still firmly in the liberal camp. At last my writing résumé would list something other than the alternative press.
A couple of weeks later, another letter arrived from the magazine's literary editor. She was sorry to inform me that the Editor-in-Chief, Gilbert Harrison, had vetoed publication of my review at the last moment. The article was returned to me, already edited for publication, even with an issue date marked on it. Some years later, I came to appreciate that Harrison was a typical Cold-War, anti-communist liberal -- no matter how progressive their views concerning the individual and society, the basic tenets, assumptions, and objectives of American foreign policy were held sacrosanct. In 1961 the New Republic obtained a comprehensive account of the preparations by the CIA for its upcoming invasion of Cuba. Harrison was a friend of President Kennedy and he dutifully submitted the magazine's planned article to the White House for advice. We thus have a case here of the United States about to initiate what the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg called "a war of aggression ... not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime." And an American journalist did not know whether he should expose this. When Kennedy asked that the story not be printed, Harrison complied. If the story had been published, it might have led to the cancellation of the invasion, and thus the saving of a few thousand lives on the two sides.
Ironically and sadly, just four days after Harrison's death, Philip Agee died. We had been friends since I met him in England in 1975, shortly after his book came out. Phil was truly a hero. He gave up his career, his financial security, a normal family life, and his safety to work against the CIA in one country after another that was threatened by the Agency -- Cuba, Jamaica, Grenada, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela. The CIA revoked his US passport, spread all manner of false stories about him (such as his being in the pay of the KGB), and hounded him in Europe, getting him expelled from the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and other countries. The Agency had him under surveillance for much of the rest of his life. The extreme strain this put on him may well have contributed to the perforated ulcer which led to his death.
The CIA was, as it still is, a force for dreadful things. What could a man of principle and idealism, with so much inside knowledge of the workings of the Agency, do but devote his life to fighting such a force?
Oh, by the way, the Iraqis don't really want us
Did you miss this? It should have been the lead story in every newspaper and radio and TV program in America. In the Washington Post it was on page 14. In virtually all of the rest of the media it was on page zero, channel zero, 0000 AM or 00.0 FM.
The US military in Iraq hired firms to conduct focus groups amongst a cross section of the population. A summary report of the findings was obtained by the Post. Here are some of the highlights of the report as disclosed by the newspaper:
Until the March 2003 US occupation Sunnis and Shiites coexisted peacefully.
Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them.
After the United States leaves Iraq, national reconciliation will happen "naturally."
A sense of "optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups ... and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis."
Dividing Iraq into three states would hinder national reconciliation. (Only the Kurds did not reject this option.)
Most would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq as beginning with the US occupation.
Few mentioned Saddam Hussein as a cause of their problems, which the report described as an important finding, implying that "the current strife in Iraq seems to have totally eclipsed any agonies or grievances many Iraqis would have incurred from the past regime, which lasted for nearly four decades -- as opposed to the current conflict, which has lasted for five years."
The Washington Post added this note: "Outside of the military, some of the most widespread polling in Iraq has been done by D3 Systems, a Virginia-based company that maintains offices in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. Its most recent publicly released surveys, conducted in September for several news media organizations, showed the same widespread Iraqi belief voiced by the military's focus groups: that a U.S. departure will make things better. A State Department poll in September 2006 reported a similar finding."
This just in: The US has found the perfect way to counteract such foolish attitudes of the Iraqi people. On January 10, the Associated Press reported: "U.S. bombers and jet fighters unleashed 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad within 10 minutes Thursday in one of the biggest air strikes of the war, flattening what the military called safe havens for al-Qaida in Iraq." There was no mention of whether the planes had also dropped pamphlets saying: "We bomb you because we care about you."
On December 20, the legislature of Panama declared the date to be a day of "national mourning" in memory of the American invasion on that day in 1989. "This is a recognition of those who fell on Dec. 20 as a result of the cruel and unjust invasion by the most powerful army in the world," said Rep. Cesar Pardo, of the governing Democratic Revolutionary Party, which holds a majority in the legislature. U.S. officials downplayed the issue. "We prefer to look to the future," said a U.S. Embassy spokesman. "We are very satisfied to have a friend and partner like Panama, a nation that has managed to develop a mature democracy." As with their attack on Iraq on March 19, 2003, the United States, with no provocation or international legality (yes, another war of aggression), first bombed Panama, then staged a ground invasion, killing as many as a few thousand, while offering no believable reason for their psychopathic behavior.
Will we some day see in a free and independent Iraq the setting of March 19 as a day of national mourning?
Some further thought re the 9/11 truth movement
When I say, as I did in last month's report, that I don't think that 9-11 was an "inside job", it's not because I believe that men like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, et al. are not morally depraved enough to carry out such a monstrous act; these men each has a piece missing, a piece that's shaped like a social conscience; they consciously and directly instigated the current Iraqi and Afghanistan horrors which have already cost many more American lives than were lost on 9/11, not to mention more than a million Iraqis and Afghans who dearly wanted to remain amongst the living. In the Gulf War of 1991, Cheney and other American leaders purposely destroyed electricity-generating plants, water-pumping systems, and sewage systems in Iraq, then imposed sanctions upon the country making the repair of the infrastructure extremely difficult. Then, after twelve years, when the Iraqi people had performed the heroic task of getting these systems working fairly well again, the US bombers came back to inflict devastating damage to them all once more. My books and many others document one major crime against humanity after another by our America once so dear and cherished.
So it's not the moral question that makes me doubt the inside-job scenario. It's the logistics of it all -- the incredible complexity of arranging it all so that it would work and not be wholly and transparently unbelievable. That and the gross overkill -- they didn't need to destroy or smash up ALL those buildings and planes and people. One of the twin towers killing more than a thousand would certainly have been enough to sell the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, and Homeland Security. The American people are not such a hard sell. They really yearn to be true believers. Look how they scream hysterically over Hillary and Obama.
To win over people like me, the 9/11 truth people need to present a scenario that makes the logistics reasonably plausible. They might start by trying to answer questions like these: Did planes actually hit the towers and the Pentagon and crash in Pennsylvania? Were these the same four United Airline and American Airline planes that took off from Boston and Newark? At the time of collision, were they being piloted by people or by remote control? If people, who were these people?
Also, why did building 7 collapse? If it was purposely demolished -- why? All the reasons I've read so far I find not very credible. As to the films of the towers and building 7 collapsing, which make it appear that this had to be the result of controlled demolitions -- I agree, it does indeed look that way. But what do I know? I'm no expert. It's not like I've seen, in person or on film, numerous examples of buildings collapsing due to controlled demolition and numerous other examples of buildings collapsing due to planes crashing into them, so I could make an intelligent distinction. We are told by the 9/11 truth people that no building constructed like the towers has ever collapsed due to fire. But how about fire plus a full-size, loaded airplane smashing into it? How many examples of that do we have?
But there's one argument those who support the official version use against the skeptics that I would question. It's the argument that if the government planned the operation there would have to have been many people in on the plot, and surely by now one of them would have talked and the mainstream media would have reported their stories. But in fact a number of firemen, the buildings' janitor, and others have testified to hearing many explosions in the towers some time after the planes crashed, supporting the theory of planted explosives. But scarce little of this has made it to the media. Likewise, following the JFK assassination at least two men came forward afterward and identified themselves as being one of the three "tramps" on the grassy knoll in Dallas. So what happened? The mainstream media ignored them both. I know of them only because the tabloid press ran their stories. One of the men was the father of actor Woody Harrelson.
 San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 1980, p.7
 United Press International (UPI) dispatch from Saigon, October 31, 1967
 See interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security adviser -- http://members.aol.com/bblum6/brz.htm
 Victor Marchetti and John Marks, "The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence" (1975), p.307; Peter Wyden, "Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story" (1979), p.142-3
 Washington Post, December 19, 2007, article plus accompanying sidebar; see also the Anti-Empire Report of August 18, 2006, last item, for another Post article demonstrating the belief of the Iraqi people, as well as American military personnel, that things would be better if the US left the country.
 Associated Press, December 20, 2007
 For the full details, see William Blum, "Killing Hope", chapter 50.William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2 Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire.