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If They Could Only Hear Themselves

by David Vest

First we had Osama bin Laden telling Pakistani journalists that the death toll in the World Trade Tower attacks was far greater than the U.S. government was letting on. An interview in UMMAT, published on September 28 and reported in CounterPunch, made it clear that bin Laden had been counting on a much higher death toll.

But later we saw him on that famous “smoking gun” video, leaning against the wall in someone’s home and claiming that news reports of the devastation proved that the attacks far exceeded anything he had anticipated.

Whether or not the interview and the video established bin Laden’s culpability, they certainly made it clear that, dead or alive, he is full of shit, a veritable sack of stercory but with plenty of money.

Speaking of money, now comes word on the home front from President Bush and from Sen. Phil Gramm’s office that the real victims of the Enron debacle were the Bush and Gramm families. The president’s mother-in-law bought stock last summer, but “she didn’t know all the facts,” said Bush, “and that’s wrong.”

Surely it was not the president’s intent to suggest, as his wording did, that it was his mother in-law who did “wrong.”

“No help here” was the response, he avowed, when Enron called members of his cabinet. Was that the same answer Dick Cheney gave Kenneth Lay, one wonders, when Enron called on the vice-president to sway the administration’s energy policy? “No help here, Kenny Boy”?

Sen. Gramm, for his part, did not allege that anyone had done anything “wrong,” only that he hadn’t, and neither had his wife, Wendy, who sits on Enron’s board and audit committee. Oh, well, then.

It was also instructive to see former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher (remember him? from Bush I? he was Georgette Mosbacher’s husband, remember her?) on CNN’s Moneyline with Lou Dobbs, who made no mention of the fact that Mosbacher was on Enron’s payroll. Neither did Mosbacher, who all but suggested that “the Ken Lay I know,” who is probably “not sleeping well,” ought to do everyone a favor and fall on his sword before all the swearing-in and plea-bargaining starts.

You get the feeling that there are other waves, building way out there behind the Enron scandal, that may turn out to be even bigger. Halliburton’s widely-predicted fall would cast more than sand and foam on the shoes of Dick Cheney. And that Unocal/Afghan oil pipeline rumble could be the Tsunami of all undertows. What WERE the Taliban doing in Sugar Land, while Bush was governor of Texas? Did he meet with them?

Then there is the roiling divertimento of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s clarification, following the British reaction to some disturbing photos of sensory-deprived people kneeling in chains in Cuba. Turns out that the photos were misleading, clarified Rumsfeld. The al-Queda prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay are actually receiving an all-expense-paid vacation in the “sunny Caribbean.” Why, they’ve even been provided with free medical care and “writing materials.” No doubt one of them is penning an op-ed piece for USA Today even now, to explain the whole silly misunderstanding.

What, precisely, can our sun-basked prisoners be expected to do with their “writing materials,” apart from confessing and naming names? Can they write home? Can they petition their governments for assistance? Can they have pen-pals among the infidel?

Beyond the question of the media’s (and thus the public’s) right to information, there is another issue: is access to the media, the opportunity to tell one’s story, to state one’s case in daylight, some sort of basic human right, not to be denied even terrorists and murderers?

“Treat me as you should treat me, not as I should be treated,” wrote Antonio Porchia, as translated by W. S. Merwin in a wonderful little book called Voices. The question is not whether the United States is treating its al-Queda prisoners the way they ought to be treated, but whether the United States is behaving the way the last best hope of humanity ought to behave — with “a decent respect for the opinions of [hu]mankind.”

David Vest is a regular writer for CounterPunch, a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs. Visit his website at

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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