November 21, 2005
|MAUREEN FARRELL ARCHIVES|
Tired of Being Lied to? Modern History You Can't Afford to Ignore
Part 1 of a 3-Part Series
by Maureen Farrell
A couple years ago, historian Chalmers Johnson predicted that thanks to the "entrenched interests" of the military-industrial complex, the United States can look forward to a future of perpetual war, increased propaganda, fewer Constitutional rights, and a bloated executive branch. America, he warned, "will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787" unless there is a "revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy."
The founding fathers were particularly sensitive to liberty's fleeting nature and power's corruptive tendencies. Thomas Jefferson said that "even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny," while James Madison warned that "If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." And at the close of the Constitutional Convention, when someone asked Ben Franklin what type of government the framers had drafted, he presciently replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."
But America's wisest leaders did not merely warn against the death of the republic, but about how and why its democratic principles would gradually wither away. "Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation [of power] first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence," Jefferson wrote in 1821. "We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few," Madison said in the New York Post.
Similar warnings were sounded by modern presidents. Franklin D Roosevelt said he didn't "want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of [World War II]," and Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that the military/industrial complex had the potential to "endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
By late 2005, when Andy Rooney played a segment of Eisenhower's speech on CBS' 60 Minutes, the implications were evident: "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," Eisenhower said in 1961. "Well, Ike was right. That's just what's happened," Rooney remarked.
Since our genocidal beginnings, there has always been a dark side to American history. Between slavery's shameful legacy, Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, and FDR's internment of Japanese Americans, democracy has not always been Priority One to its chosen guardians. But even so, something has shifted since Harry Truman declared war profiteering a form of treason.
"What has become of the American people that they permit the despicable practices of tyrants to be practiced in their name?" former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts recently asked. "The Bush administration is in violation of the US Constitution, the rule of law, the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Standard, and basic humanity. It is a gang of criminals," he wrote.
Former President Jimmy Carter also voiced concern. "Everywhere you go, people ask, "What has happened to the United States of America?" he said, referring to international reaction to America's evolving stance on human rights, the environment and the separation of church and state.
The most striking criticism has come from Bush administration exiles, however. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently offered a scathing critique, confirming reports that a "cabal" led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had "hijacked foreign policy" and that this cabal's "insular and secret workings" led to "decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy."
With government insiders now sounding such alarms, concerns cannot be attributed to the New World Order fringe. It's clear that something is amiss -- something that's eroding our character, our reputation and our values. How did this come about? Just how far have we strayed from our democratic ideals? Consider the following:
Part I -- 1937 - 1990
1937: A small company named Brown & Root (which will later become a division of Halliburton) calls upon Lyndon Johnson to procure $10 million in federal funding for the Mansfield Damn project. The freshman congressman eventually delivers the necessary authorization and funding for the project, which becomes the cornerstone of Brown and Root's financial empire. In turn, Herman Brown finances Johnson's political rise. "It was a totally corrupt relationship and it benefited both of them enormously. Brown & Root got rich, and Johnson got power and riches," LBJ biographer Ronnie Dugger later notes, adding that Johnson "wouldn't have been in the running without Brown & Root's money and airplanes."
In 2000, the Bush/Cheney campaign uses Halliburton's planes during the Florida recount, triggering a federal investigation. ''The Bush administration literally flew into power on Enron's and Halliburton's private jets," a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee charges.
1942: The New York Tribune features a front page story entitled "Hitler's Angel has $3 million in US bank," referring to Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen and his ties to Union Banking Corporation. Later that year, Union Bank official Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, is charged with "Running Nazi front groups in the United States." Bush is elected to the U.S. Senate ten years later.
1944: Former Vice President Henry A. Wallace writes an Op-ed , discussing war profiteers who are "ruthless" in their "use of deceit or violence" to gain money and power -- pointing to those who "hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends." Newly discovered government documents prove that Prescott Bush's ties to the Nazis continued until as late as 1951, and that he and his cohorts "routinely attempted to conceal their activities from government investigators."
1945: World War II ends. Between 1945 and 1955, more than 700 Nazi scientists are smuggled into the U.S. In addition to providing the government with valuable science, "Operation Paperclip" eventually spawns more notorious programs like Operation ARTICHOKE (extreme interrogation and torture) and MK-ULTRA (mind control).
Eight years later, Dr. Frank Olson, an Army biochemist expert who runs the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, (and has ties to Operation Paperclip) falls from a New York City hotel window. "The search for the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Dr. Frank Olson begins in 1945, with the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany," a German documentary later reports. In 1975, after the Rockefeller Commission unearths revelations about the CIA's role in Dr. Olson's death, his family is paid $750,000 restitution, though the government continues to hide the true nature of his work. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are later implicated in the cover-up.
1947: The Central Intelligence Agency is created. Forty years later, Bill Moyers traces the advent of secretive and often grossly unethical practices to the National Security Act of 1947 -- exposing the government's "apparatus of secret power" and threats to the U.S. Constitution.
In the 1980s, Congressman Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld abscond annually to a remote location, partaking in "one of the most highly classified programs" of the era. At times the program disregards Constitutional protocol for presidential succession during a national crisis, instead using "a secret procedure for putting in place a new 'President' and his staff," while diminishing the role of the Speaker of the House and Congress. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney routinely disappears to an undisclosed location and President George W. Bush initiates a shadow government in underground bunkers without informing Congress.
1951: Madison's Capital Times editor John Patrick Hunter takes to the streets with a petition, (which is actually the Declaration of Independence, along with portions of the Bill of Rights) and tries to get people to sign it. Only one in 112 does. The rest find it too subversive. More than fifty years later, Harper's editor Lewis H Lapham explains that America is "blessed with a bourgeoisie that will welcome fascism as gladly as it welcomes the rain in April and the sun in June."
1953: After Iran's Prime Minister Mossadegh nationalizes Iran's oil industry. Britain pushes the U.S. to mount a coup. The CIA, led by Teddy Roosevelt's grandson Kermit Roosevelt (and with the help of Norman Schwarzkopf's father) overthrows Mossadegh during Operation AJAX. "The crushing of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms," the Guardian later notes.
In 1957, the CIA creates SAVAK, the Shah of Iran's secret police force, which routinely relies on torture -- using the same interrogation techniques the CIA imported from the Nazis. Nearly half a century later, the world learns of the CIA's network of detainment facilities and American-sanctioned torture.
1964: After the American destroyer the USS Maddox is reportedly attacked in the Gulf Of Tonkin, the Senate approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaks the Pentagon Papers to the press, proving that the pretext for this escalation was based upon distortions. Before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Ellsberg asks government officials who know that the Bush administration is deceiving the public to come clean and reiterates his plea in 2004: "Do what I wish I had done in 1964: go to the press, to Congress, and document your claims," he writes.
Senator Robert Byrd, in opposition to the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq, compares the current crisis to the one lawmakers faced in 1964. "This is the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again," he says in Oct. 2002. "Let us not give this president or any president unchecked power. Remember the Constitution."
1965: The government secretly releases Bacillus globigii at the National Airport and Greyhound bus terminal in Washington, DC.; One year later, military researchers break bacteria-filled light bulbs onto tracks in subway stations in New York City.
1970: After a coup brings CIA-backed Lon Nol to power in Cambodia, the formerly neutral country is dragged into the war in Vietnam. Support for the Khmer Rouge, which was marginal before Nixon widens the war, grows, and the Khmer Rouge takes power in 1975, leading to Cambodia's infamous killing fields. "Few Americans realize that close to two million people died. . . and that the United States helped bring about the crisis that lead to the Khmer Rouge takeover," CBS later reports. Thirty-five years later, in an article entitled, "Cambodia All Over Again?" Conn Hallinan suggests that the U.S. is setting the stage to extend the war with Iraq into Syria -- a country we are already "unofficially at war with."
1973: Congress passes the War Powers Act, which is soon ignored by presidents of both parties. "We've turned the war powers of the United States over to, well we are never really sure who, or what they're doing, or what it costs, or who is paying for it," Bill Moyers laments in 1987. "The one thing that we are sure of is that this largely secret global war carried on with less and less accountability to democratic institutions, has become a way of life. And now we are faced with a question brand new in our history. Can we have the permanent warfare state and democracy too?"
Sept. 11: A U.S.-led coup topples Chile's democratically-elected leader, Salvador Allende, and installs military dictator Augusto Pinochet. "Like Caesar peering into the colonies from distant Rome, Nixon said the choice of government by the Chileans was unacceptable to the president of the United States," Sen. Church later says. "The attitude in the White House seemed to be, "If in the wake of Vietnam I can no longer send in the Marines, then I will send in the CIA."
1974: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney urge President Ford to veto the Freedom of Information Act, which they believe will weaken the executive branch. Congress overrides Ford's veto.
1976: President Gerald Ford issues an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. agencies. After a failed 2002 coup to overthrow Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is linked to the Bush administration, TV evangelist Pat Robertson suggests that the U.S. should murder Chavez. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," Robertson says, adding, "I don't think any oil shipments will stop." In Oct. 2005, Chavez says the U.S. is planning to invade Venezuela.
1977: In a Rolling Stone article, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein estimates that "400 American journalists [have] been tied to the CIA at one point or another," -- with the New York Times being one of the CIA's prime collaborators. (The Times counters, saying that the number is closer to 800).
In 2002, disinformation printed on the front page of the New York Times is repeated by Bush administration officials on Sunday morning talk shows, helping to market the impending war in Iraq. Judith Miller, co-author of the piece, later becomes a story unto herself, when her "mysterious security clearance," and ties to Plamegate, and John Bolton raise eyebrows. A colleague depicts Miller as an "advocate," whose work is "little more than dictation from government sources. . .filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies."
While the government reportedly ends its disinformation program following the publication of Bernstein's article, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, news that one of the terrorist's passports is miraculously found amongst the rubble at ground zero is reported and repeated, with some "lucky finds" bringing to mind former CIA director William Colby's boast that "the Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any major significance in the major media."
In 2005, the General Accounting Office finds that the Bush administration violated the law by engaging in "covert propaganda" within the U.S. As former Vice President Henry Wallace once wrote: "With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public."
1977-1984: The U.S. government backs "nationalist" forces in El Salvador, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands, including American nuns who are raped, mutilated and murdered by El Salvador's death squads. In 2005, Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering a plan to resurrect "a still-secret strategy" from this era to use against insurgents in Iraq.
Osama bin Laden leaves Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet's in Afghanistan. He eventually receives funding and training through the CIA.
On Jan. 16, the Shah of Iran, who's been in power since the U.S.-led coup in 1953, flees Iran after months of violent protests against him. The exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns on Feb. 1, and takes over Iran within days. In November, Islamic revolutionaries take more than 60 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
1980: Dismissing televised speculation on a Ronald Reagan/Gerald Ford co-presidency, Ronald Reagan makes a late-night dash to the Republican National Convention to announce that George. H.W. Bush will be his running mate. Though Bush denies meeting Iranian officials in Paris to delay the release of America's remaining 52 hostages during President Jimmy Carter's term, the Iran hostage situation is resolved the day Reagan is sworn in.
1981: Mark Hinkley attempts to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, 69 days after the new president is sworn in. In a bizarre footnote, UPI, the Houston Post, the Associated Press, and NBC's John Chancellor report that Hinkley's brother Scott was to dine with Vice President George H. W. Bush's son Neil the night of the shooting.
1984: In a televised speech, Ronald Reagan asks Americans to support freedom fighters in Nicaragua. Two years later, the administration admits it illegally sold weapons to Iran to fund Nicaraguan Contras.
1988: The Reagan era comes to a close. When George W. Bush's administration later compares itself to the Reagan administration, Ronald Reagan, Jr. objects. "Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the '80s," he says. "But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's -- these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people."
1989: The US invades Panama, overthrowing its dictator, General Manuel Noriega, a former CIA asset.
End of Part I of a 3-Part Series. Click here for Part II.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell