June 13, 2006
Greg Palast Uncovers the 'Armed Madhouse' of the Bush Reign of Greed, Fear and Stolen Elections
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Greg Palast is such a good investigative reporter, he can’t get a job with a mainstream media outlet in the United States. That’s right, Palast is good enough for the BBC and the London Guardian and Observer, but he is too good for any paper or television station in the United States.
You see, the mainstream press in America sees a big boulder blocking the road and there’s all sorts of arms and legs sticking out from underneath. The White House tells the media that their eyes are deceiving them and there is nothing under the boulder. They warn them not to try and move it, otherwise they might be aiding terrorists and revealing classified information. The corporate-owned big media then reports that a big boulder fell from the sky and caused no injuries. Greg Palast, however, hires an earth mover, has an iron claw pick up the boulder – and then he reports what he finds underneath.
This makes him a pariah to the corporate barons who run the American media. They don’t want inquiring minds as journalists; they want stenographers. There’s a reason BuzzFlash has interviewed Greg Palast more than any other person. He’s not afraid to look under rocks and boulders and tell us what he sees, as he does in his new book, Armed Madhouse.
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BuzzFlash: You don’t waste a page of this book, Greg. You open it up and you’ve got an illustrated explanation of the two plans for oil in invading Iraq.
Greg Palast: Bush had a secret plan for Iraq’s oil. Make that, he had two, and I got them. It was not easy, let me tell you. The first plan that I found was crafted by the Neo-cons – Wolfowitz and the whole Rumsfeld gang. Their program for oil in Iraq was to sell off the oil fields. We have it in black and white. They called this privatization, which means slice, dice and sell. Of course, since Iraqis only have Iraqi currency, it wouldn’t go to Iraqis, right?
That plan was handed to General Jay Garner, our first vice counsel there. I showed him the secret plan and he said, “Yes, that’s it.” I said, “Why didn’t you implement it?” He said basically that he told Rumsfeld to take the plan and stick it where the desert sun doesn’t rise.
BuzzFlash: And then Garner got relieved of duty.
Greg Palast: That night, Rumsfeld said, well, don’t unpack. You’re fired.
BuzzFlash: Then they sent Paul Bremer.
Greg Palast: They sent in Paul Bremer, whose sole qualification for the job was that he was managing director of Kissinger Associates. But the plan to sell off Iraq’s oil fields was blocked by something I didn’t expect – big oil, the big oil companies. They said: Listen guys, this isn’t how it’s done in the Mideast. You let the Iraqis pretend that they own the oil, and what we do is we have no-bid production sharing agreements. The key thing is to make sure – and here’s the kicker – make sure we don’t get too much oil.
I have the actual 323-page document drafted by big oil executives in Houston, working with James Baker’s people. Remember, James Baker represents Exxon Oil Company. He also represents the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These are the guys drafting the plans – our plans for Iraq’s oil. By the way, why aren’t the Iraqis drawing up their own plan? That’s another issue. But the plan was that we don’t sell off Iraq’s oilfields. Rather they have lock-up agreements with U.S. oil companies.
And most importantly, this plan would guarantee that Iraq does not produce beyond its OPEC quota. In other words, we want the oil, but not too much, because that would bring down the price of oil.
In the book, I actually show the pages from these plans for Iraq, and one says the purpose is to enhance the Iraq government’s relationship with OPEC. As you can imagine, OPEC is the oil cartel which basically has its foot on the world’s economic windpipe at the moment - $70 a barrel gasoline. Three bucks a gallon at the pump is what it comes out to. We are literally in there right now to make sure that Iraq remains good members of OPEC. They were afraid that Saddam was going renegade, and he could not be trusted to play ball with OPEC, which is basically an illegal cartel controlled by Saudi Arabia and big oil.
That was the winning plan for the oil. In other words, if you wonder why your cousin is shivering under a tank in Fallujah, it is to enhance Iraq’s relationship with OPEC. There it is, guys – black and white.
BuzzFlash: To ensure a controlled flow of oil at a good profitable price for the oil industry.
Greg Palast: Let’s put it this way. Iraq can pump 6 million barrels a day. As long as they are members of OPEC under Saudi control, they can only pump 3 million a day. With the oil for food program – we put a clamp on Saddam – it was 2 million a day. People misunderstand this one. We were screaming in the streets: no blood for oil, which, of course, you know, most Americans consider a bargain – blood for oil, as long as it’s not their blood, right? But in fact, it wasn’t blood for oil. It was blood for no oil. It was blood to make sure that not too much oil would flow and bust the market. Oil had been down under Bill Clinton to eighteen bucks a barrel. Now it’s over $70 a barrel.
BuzzFlash: I think it was $73 on Friday. And with the Iranians saying that if the U.S. continues to put pressure on them, they’re going to lower their output, the price of oil may go up even more.
Greg Palast: Right. They are playing a nice little game. The next war isn’t with Iran – it’s with Venezuela, as I explain the book.
BuzzFlash: Because they’re the second-largest exporter to the U.S. – isn’t that right?
Greg Palast: Let me explain. I was able to obtain a document. That’s why we have all these illustrations in the book – because I want people to actually see these things. I got a document from inside the Department of Energy, which says that Venezuela – in other words, Hugo Chavez - has more oil than Saudi Arabia, and that’s a real shake-up.
BuzzFlash: You mean according to geological surveys?
Greg Palast: Yes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a lot more oil than Saudi Arabia. That’s a disaster for George Bush because – and that’s why I have that chapter called “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez.”
I showed the chart to Chavez himself last month in Caracas, and he said, “That’s absolutely right. And we’re going to demand that OPEC recognize Venezuela, not Saudi Arabia, as the leader.” That’s big, bad news for the Bush House of Saud cartel because you have to understand that King Abdullah will always sell us his oil. He’ll never cut it off.
But that’s not the most important point here. Abdullah sends back his oil earnings. After he takes his slice and gives his slice to Exxon, the remainder goes back to the United States in the form of Treasury Bill purchases. They would never lend a dime to their Muslim brothers. They just lend it back to George to fund his oil wars and his tax cuts. And that’s the game. Abdullah lends us back the petro-dollars, and we lend him the 82nd Airborne to stay in business.
BuzzFlash: Okay, so we don’t expect to see Hugo Chavez on Bush’s ranch with him, with their pinkies intertwined, as we’ve seen Bush with the Saudi royal family.
Greg Palast: The reason George Bush was chauffeuring King Abdullah around the Crawford ranch in his golf cart – well, first of all, because George is afraid of horses – no kidding. The second reason, though, is to make sure that he keeps giving us those petro-dollars back as loans or purchases.
And Chavez told me, “I’m just not going to do it.” In fact, knowing that I’d be reporting on BBC International News, Chavez said, “I’ll drop the price of oil to fifty bucks - knock off a third – a buck a gallon off your gas tank charges. But I've got to have a deal with George Bush.” He wants no more assassination plots and a stabilization of the oil market, which the Saudis absolutely hate, because the Saudis crank up the price so that we choke, and then about every six to eight years, they dump the price to wipe out any alternatives, whether it’s solar power or Chavez’s oil, which is heavy crude, which is expensive to get at.
In other words, Abdullah plays his game of jerking the market way up and way down. That’s how the Saudis keep control of the oil market. Chavez says, I’m not playing that game. I’m not giving George Venezuela’s oil money. In fact, Chavez withdrew $20 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve and lent it to Argentina, Ecuador and other Latin American countries. When you start withdrawing your money from the Federal Reserve and giving it out, instead, to Latin America, you basically are getting a date with a bullet.
BuzzFlash: Two more quick questions about the oil situation, and then we’ve got to get to the stolen elections issue. There is also speculation that Iran or Chavez might shift to the Euro instead of the dollar as being the currency for oil.
Greg Palast: That one I checked out. It doesn’t float, because it was George Bush himself who is trying to push the Euro up. Bush has been trying to push the Euro big time.
BuzzFlash: Why is that?
Greg Palast: Because he’s trying to devalue the dollar. When we talk about revaluing the Chinese currency, you mean devaluing the dollar. Very, very important to Bush to dump the dollar. His cronies are trying to evacuate the United States financially, and that’s what privatization of Social Security is about as well. It’s about getting dollars out of this country, and so we devalue the dollar. That devalues the debt held by these guys. It raises our interest. It kills our pension funds and our economy is slowly dying off.
BuzzFlash: Why do they want to do that?
Greg Palast: There are a few reasons. One, higher interest rates as well as high oil rates have completely demolished the auto industry. General Motors is heading right into bankruptcy. High oil rates have also demolished the airline industry while enriching the oil companies, and the high interest rates have enriched the banks.
That means basically the Democratic stronghold industries - the last unionized industries in America, which are auto and airlines – are going down. In other words, "Mission Accomplished." Money is flowing into Houston. We pay three bucks a gallon for gas, and they collect it. Mission accomplished. Oil’s at $70 a barrel. Mission accomplished. The dollar’s down, and we are exporting a quarter trillion dollars a year to China in cash, so we could import their manufactured goods. That’s mission accomplished. The idea is that American capital is fleeing this country.
BuzzFlash: And that’s good for Bush supporters like Wal-Mart, who basically are the largest U.S. business employing workers in China.
Greg Palast: In fact, one thing you’ll find in the book is that Wal-Mart has 700 factories that they effectively control in China – at least – and zero in the United States.
BuzzFlash: One more question on oil. In essence, we look at the war in Iraq, and saber-rattling in Iran, and see it as a Bush failure. Our soldiers are dying in a macabre fiasco. It’s a civil war there. From the perspective of the oil companies, however, it’s been a big success. They’re making out literally like bandits.
Greg Palast: Exactly. If you thought that we went into Iraq to get that oil, then we failed. But the oil companies are not in the business of finding oil. They’re in the business of finding profits, and they make profits by not finding oil – by locking up these fields.
The history of Iraq is a history of locking up their fields so they don’t produce. So it is mission accomplished. You have to understand - Exxon-Mobil Corporation, the number one, lifetime, career giver to George W. Bush after Enron - is making $10 billion clear profit every three months. We haven’t seen cash like that since the pharaohs. This is mission accomplished.
You can read the documents. Remember, I actually talked to the oil company executives, the CEO of Shell Oil, and I talked to the inside people working with Baker and his Exxon crew in drafting the oilfield plans for Iraq. If you go through the plans, if you talk to these guys - this is mission accomplished. Yes, kids are dying. But it’s not George Bush’s kids, who are of military age. A "war president" got himself a war. They didn’t screw up, okay? And he got re-elected – that is, close enough to swipe it. And by the way, I did that wired, just so you know. They said that I never spoke to them, and then I said, “What part of the audiotape is fabricated?” Just so you know how I get this stuff.
BuzzFlash: Now let’s quickly move to the scheme to steal ’08. We first met you, Greg, in 2002 when BuzzFlash and MakeThemAccountable.com sponsored an event here in Chicago that you spoke at. It was absolutely jammed, and this was when you issued the first edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
You were the first to zero in on the role of the infamous ChoicePoint data collection firm in purging the Florida voting rolls in 2000 of eligible and ineligible Democratic voters alike. You had a fantastic slide presentation, very detailed, about how they accomplished this violation of voting rights.
Greg Palast: Here's what happened, in a nutshell, for those who don’t remember. For BBC Television, I discovered that before the election, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris scrubbed tens of thousands of black voters off the voter rolls. They called them felons when their only crime was voting while black. That gave little George the White House.
I reported that for BBC, and I couldn’t get that on the air in America for anything. It was completely blacked out until basically Michael Moore brought it up later. You couldn’t talk about the theft of the 2000 election. It was a lockup fest. In 2004, they did it again, and it was bigger and wider and sneakier and stinkier and nastier.
Again, it’s very important to me that I show you the documents, show you the goods, show you the information, so you can see the actual data and proof. And it wasn’t, by the way, just Ohio. Don’t kid yourself. I’m glad that Bobby Kennedy – terrific guy – has now endorsed the idea that it was stolen in Ohio, but it wasn’t just Ohio.
It was Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, and on and on. 3.6 million votes were cast and never counted in the 2004 election – 3.6 million. This isn’t Greg Palast getting the info from a black helicopter. This is Greg Palast and our team going through the computer files of the election information agency – and, by the way, the computer files of the Republican National Committee, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of the investigation because some schmuck at the RNC wrote some e-mails, in which they were discussing exactly how to jigger the election. We were able to suck that down through a fake web site.
BuzzFlash: As we saw in New Hampshire – this is in a way a big “gotcha” - people went to jail for it. In the 2002 election, there was a phone-jamming case in New Hampshire where they jammed the lines of a union to prevent them from getting out the vote for the Democratic candidate for the senate. And people have gone to jail for this, including the person who was the former head of the Bush campaign for the northeast. The RNC paid his legal defense, which was well over a million dollars. You couldn’t get any more proof – and here you had a litigated case – of the Republican Party being involved in the – in felony suppression of vote by legal verdict. There were direct connections through phone calls to the RNC, and some indication even to Rove.
Greg Palast: Right.
BuzzFlash: So it’s a wide swath of voter suppression, theft, and illegal disenfranchisement that the Republicans have been engaged in. You were the first to really detail the ChoicePoint role and all the varied ways they stole the Florida vote – not just ChoicePoint, but that was the key. If it weren’t for ChoicePoint, Gore would have run away with it.
Greg Palast: That’s right.
BuzzFlash: Then we have the 2004 election, and we have a more subtle combination of suppression of the vote, use of electronic voting machines to miscalculate the vote and so forth. Now in your book upi say, “Watch out for 2008.” Why do Americans not understand the threat here? It's only after Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. brings it up in Rolling Stone that some people suddenly say, whoa, someone who’s really got credibility brought it up. Hey, maybe it is serious.
Greg Palast: Remember that I wrote a story for the British Guardian paper, actually in the column. I took over George Orwell’s column. And I put on the top of the BBC Nightly News – “Kerry Won” - okay? Then I had to explain to a European, Asian and Latin American audience that Kerry won. He got the most votes. But they’re going to inaugurate George Bush again. This is in 2004.
But how do I know Kerry won? The whole BBC team did an incredible investigation, and we found 3.6 million votes cast but not counted. It was called "spoilage" - and that’s everything from hanging chads to paper ballots that have extra marks, and are junked and thrown away – you name it.
But it’s not just anyone’s ballot that doesn’t count. Whose votes are they? We did a precinct-by-precinct analysis of whose votes were thrown away. If you are in a black majority precinct, the chance that your vote will be thrown in the electoral dumpster is 900% higher than if you’re in a white precinct. If you are Hispanic - 500% higher than if you’re in a white precinct. This also includes something called "rejected provisional ballots," a whole new gimmick. A million people were shunted to back-of-the-bus ballots called provisional ballots. And over half a million of those were never counted – never counted. And who made the decision not to count them? The Secretaries of State, like the Secretary of State of Ohio, who is also the head of the Bush reelection campaign.
Whose votes are thrown out? It’s black voters and poor voters. That’s why the Armed Madhouse subtitle says “Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.” Vote theft is class war by other means. Not everyone’s vote gets thrown out. In fact, do the arithmetic nationwide. 54% of the votes in the electoral dumpster are cast by black voters. Another third cast by Hispanic voters? Something like only one in five lost votes is cast by white voters, and those are the poor white voters. The electoral dumpster is filled with basically a Democratic pile of uncounted votes. That’s how they did it. And they’re planning to do a better job of not counting those votes in 2008. It’s the non-count of the vote – it’s not the count – that picks our president.
BuzzFlash: In the meantime, we have midterm elections coming up. What is going to happen there in 2006?
Greg Palast: It will only get worse, because they’ve added a new gimmick. Part of the way they knock out voters is using databases. That’s how they did it in Florida. They manipulated databases to wrongly tag people as unqualified voters. In 2004, we found something called "caging lists" of tens of thousands – and we know it had to really be hundreds of thousands – of voters, almost every one of them an African-American voter, targeted for challenge by the Republican Party – the first mass challenge of voters since the Jim Crow era. We found these illegal lists – these caging lists.
That pumped up the number of uncounted votes enormously – again, black votes. In 2006 and 2008, they’re targeting the Hispanic demographic, because they’re going to steal it in New Mexico, in Utah, in Colorado, in Arizona, and Nevada. That’s where they’re going to be stealing the votes. And they’re targeting the Native American vote as well, which is a big demographic in the West. How are they doing it? They’re starting this new game of voter ID and national ID cards. They’re creating tremendous databases to come up with "gotcha rules" that are going to tag people as ineligible voters – so-called "suspect" voters. This is what they did in 2004, completely unreported in the U.S. press.
BuzzFlash: Is ChoicePoint playing a big role in this?
Greg Palast: You betcha, because where are they getting these databases? The answer is the war on terror. People keep talking about how they are attacking our civil liberties by keeping these big databases on Americans. What are they for? They’re not to keep you safe from al-Qaeda. There’s not a war on terror. It’s a war on democracy.
ChoicePoint is the biggest data mining outfit – it basically has the biggest data mine in the United States – at minimum, 16 billion records on Americans. It’s illegal for the U.S. government to keep those records, but ChoicePoint as a private company can. Then the U.S. government simply dips into the data mine and pulls out the nuggets it wants. We saw this in 2000, with them falsely attacking people as felons.
In 2004, completely unreported in the U.S. press, but big news from our BBC investigation -- and it’s in Madhouse -- are the caging lists, in which again we know hundreds of thousands of people were tagged as having so-called suspect addresses. Suspect addresses, in case you’re wondering, causing people to lose their vote, included page after page after page of black soldiers sent overseas, so that their home address was now suspect.
If they've got the databases, they’ve got the election. And they’re getting the databases from the war on terror and the war on immigrants. 3.6 million votes were cast and not counted last time. Look for 5 million in 2008.
BuzzFlash: Is ChoicePoint being subcontracted by the NSA?
Greg Palast: I can’t even tell you what they have. Remember, these contracts are secret. We’re not supposed to know. I happen to have in the book the foreign intelligence gathering contract of ChoicePoint. But you’re not even supposed to know it exists. I know that they have immigration contracts. I know that they have foreign intelligence-gathering contracts. I know that they have U.S. DNA-gathering contracts for the FBI.
BuzzFlash: We have a sinking suspicion that ChoicePoint and other dating mining firms are doing the NSA’s dirty work. Then the Bush Administration can claim that the NSA is not spying on Americans, because technically it’s the subcontractors who are doing the spying!
Well, Greg, thank you, once again. We wish there were fewer cockroaches under the rocks you pick up, but it appears with the Bush Administration, the roaches increase faster than the number of rocks you can look under.
Greg Palast: Thanks, it’s always a pleasure to talk with BuzzFlash.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Mark Karlin.
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Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War (Hardcover) by Greg Palast, a BuzzFlash Premium.
Greg Palast, from the BuzzFlash archives.