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Cheney's Game; Cheney's Rules

What Would Royko Write?


I often wonder what Chicago’s late, great Mike Royko thinks about "Boss" Dick Cheney literally snickering up his sleeve at the direction he’s managed to steer the Independent (sic) 9-11 Commission to effectively cover up what he and others in the administration knew before 9-11.

I suspect the acerbic renegade columnist would be quick to point out that the Commission is working pretty hard on its own to make Cheney’s job easier. He’d probably tell us the Commission’s "bipartisan" members are arguably the only group of people in this country — maybe even the world — who don’t know exactly what this entire bunch knew — and when they knew it.

You play Cheney’s game, you play by Cheney’s rules and with Cheney’s stacked deck. That’s the deal — take it or leave it. Nobody gets a break here. The Cheney White House has gone from angrily resisting an independent investigation, to sabotaging it via curtailing funds and imposing unrealistic cut-off dates and, finally, to blatant manipulation. Distractions, such as public outrage over selecting Henry Kissinger to be in charge of anything even remotely honorable, gave Cheney the cover he needed, for example, to install as Commission executive director Philip Zelikow, a Condoleezza Rice buddy and former member of the 2000 Cheney/Bush transition team.

Zelikow may not be privy to what led up to Bin Laden’s 9-11 attack on the United States, but he has no illusions about what prompted Bush’s 3-20 attack on Iraq. In a Sep 10, 2002 speech at the University of Virginia, Zelikow maintained that the war, in which 613 U.S. and 105 coalition troops have been killed and far too many more wounded and maimed, was motivated by the U.S. government’s desire to defend Israel.

"Why would Iraq attack America or use nucler weapons against us?" Zelikow asked. "I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is and actually has been since 1990 — it’s the threat against Israel." Zelikow went on to say that such a threat "dare not speak its name," because it was not a "popular sell" with the Europeans.

Can’t argue with that. If there’s one thing Boss Cheney knows, it’s how to make money in the war market…

Thus, Zelikow is both an able 9-11 Commission puppet and puppeteer. He decides the parameters of the investigation into what was done to protect America before 9-11, to include which questions witnesses are asked, and whether subpoenas will be issued. None have been. None will be.

But not even Zelikow sealed the deal for Cheney. Still not satisfied, Cheney went to great lengths to install former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean as Commission chairman. Kean, director and shareholder of Amerada Hess, is directly involved in an oil venture with Saudi Arabia’s Delta Oil, which is in part controlled by Khalid bin Mafhouz, Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law.

Just another amazing coincidence which, Kean assures us, will have no effect on his performance in striving mightily to discover any part the Saudis might have played in this nation’s most horrific tragedy.

However, Cheney’s never been one to take chances. With the 9-11 widows out there stomping around, demanding the truth, there was only one thing to do. Appease them. Offer up Condi. Putting a squirming Condaleezza Rice out there to publicly untangle the snarl of lies she has told to any media outlet that would schedule her for the past year is just one part of Cheney’s grand scheme to close the books on this pesky little matter.

Matter of fact, throwing Rice to the wolves is no big deal — anybody who’s paid even marginal attention to Cheney’s modus operandi over the years has seen that one coming for a long time. Although Rice has been richly rewarded for years by both Bush father and son for carrying their water so well, when the FOC (friends of Condi) recently began touting her as the logical choice for vice president, <> her bucket very quickly got a hole in it. Suddenly, it’s water, water everywhere…

It’s only fair to point out that many of Rice’s wounds are self-inflicted. Lying, then spinning the lies, then lying about spinning the lies can get tedious — even confusing — and can cause someone to suffer irreparable memory loss when someone is under oath. Especially In public. Rice will pull through her highly publicized appearance before the Committee this week damaged to be sure, and useless, but thanks to Zelikow and Kean, she will emerge intact.

But the "deal" Cheney made with Commission members for an interview, where he and Bush appear together — not under oath, in private, with no official record and only one note-taker in attendance who probably had to promise not to remember anything he hears, and if he does, he will cut off his own head and bury it in the backyard — sets a new low in lack of cooperation for this bunch. And that’s quite a feat.

Of course, there’s always the outside chance Cheney just told the flat-out (haw-haw snicker gasp snort) truth. "Look, guys," Cheney could have said, "we’re up to our asses in alligators here. You know how dysfunctional the Bushes are — especially this one. I have to be in there with him. Can’t afford for him to have a public meltdown…"

Cheney probably had to go no further than to remind them of Bush’s zany performance last week when a reporter asked him, "Mr. President, do you have a plan to deal with the high gasoline prices?"

Bush leaned over the podium as he is prone to do when he wants to appear not only honest, but earnestly honest, and — for some bewildering reason, referring to himself in the third person — responded, "The President of the United States has gotta ‘jawbone’ OPEC members and make ‘em understand they can’t cut back on oil production."

With reporters staring at him numbly, Bush went on to boast with a wink and a big grin, "I was an oil man once — not a big oil man, I was a little oil man but that’s still an oil man so I know a little bit about the subject…"

So, it’s easy to see how the Commission could be convinced that questioning Bush one-on-one might result in a real nasty Texas truth gusher. Like Cheney probably told them, splattering the public with the oily truth "at this time in our history" probably isn’t the most prudent thing to do. You know, for national security and stuff like that.

But wait — there’s more! The real coup was Cheney demanding — and getting — a written promise from the Commission that it will relinquish all rights to ask further questions from ANY member of the administration, to include advisers and unelected warmongering neocon perps who are skulking mischieviously along the shadowy periphery of democracy. Members even relinquished the right to contact those who previously testified in order to clarify remarks they may have made.

In a groveling March 30 statement, the Commission — crawling eagerly on its belly like a bitch dog begging for attention — profusely thanked both Bush and Cheney for agreeing to meet in just one joint private session, and promised not to allow the gracious presence of Dr. Rice to set a precedent. And, in spite of the daily stonewalling and efforts to discredit and derail the Commission’s mandate, for no discernable reason at all, they collectively praised Bush for his "consistent policy of strong support."

Is this Commission independent or what?

Having Jelikow and Kean covering your backside is kinda like putting the tag team of neocon operatives Antonin Scalia and James Baker in charge of yet another presidential election. There will be no pointy-finger hanging chads, no blame-game butterflies — and no surprises when the mostly redacted Commission report is vetted by the White House and finally approved by Cheney for release in July.

Trying to understand the convoluted, behind-the-scenes machinations of Commission officials — to make sense of their feverish rhetoric — I can sympathize with Royko, who fumed in frustration when he came face-to-face with the Internet…

"[It's]… like driving a car down a narrow road in a snow storm, a car in which the windshield wipers and headlights don’t work. All of the signs along the highway are backwards and upside down and of no help at all. Finally," Royko said, "when you see someone along the side of the road and stop for directions, they can only speak to you stuttering in Albanian."

If Royko were here today, he would convulse with laughter at the evil silliness of it all. He would shake his head disapprovingly at us, glower ominously at Cheney, and then roar indignantly, "Aww, C’mon Boss — Gimme a Break!"

Royko would leave us no alternative but to converge on Cheney and demand the truth.

If Royko were here — I suspect that we would get it…

SHEILA SAMPLES is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former US Army Public Information Officer. She will accept praise and atta-boys at: Complaints and death threats should be directed to BR-549.

The Anti-Empire Report

What Would Royko Write?


A higher purpose

Saturday afternoon, March 6, a shuttle boat moving through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was hit by a sudden and ferocious gust of wind and capsized; 25 people were thrown overboard; some were trapped under the boat; disaster was imminent. But the scene was in sight of a group of sailors stationed at the Naval Reserve Center at Fort McHenry, about 1,000 feet away. They quickly sprung into action. Twenty-five Naval Reservists and career sailors in a combat landing craft arrived at the shuttle within minutes of the accident. The sailors lowered the craft’s retractable landing ramp — designed to allow troops to exit the boat in a beach landing — and used it as a lever to lift the capsized vessel. It worked. The maneuver provided enough room to extract the people trapped beneath the boat. Other sailors dived into the water. Almost everyone was saved. And what thought came to me upon reading the story of this rescue? If only American military forces — who would really rather not study how best to kill — and their superb, costly equipment could be used for life-enhancing purposes all the time, in all corners of the world.{1}

The Israeli lobby

Philip Zelikow is of the type of whom it is customarily said: "He has impeccable establishment credentials". He is currently executive director of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Between 2001 and 2003 he served on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which reports directly to the president. Before his appointment to PFIAB he was part of the Bush transition team in January 2001. And in 1995 he co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice.

It’s recently been revealed that in 2002 he publicly stated that a prime motive for the upcoming invasion of Iraq was to eliminate a threat to Israel.

"Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?" he asked a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002. "I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 — it’s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell."

And this seems to be the story that dare not speak its name. The story was revealed on March 29 by Inter Press Service, a major international news agency that is mainly published outside the United States. An extensive search of the Lexis-Nexis database revealed that only one English-language news source in the world picked up the story: another news agency, United Press International, on March 30. There thus appears to be no mainstream newspaper or broadcast medium that used it.

I’ll bet you never thought of that

On March 25, L. Paul Bremer, the American head of the occupation authority in Iraq, issued an executive order specifying that "All trained elements of the Iraqi armed forces shall at all times be under the operational control of the [American] commander of coalition forces for the purpose of conducting combined operations." The order was not referring simply to the present state of affairs; it was a command for the future, after the alleged return of sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30.

In regard to the rather obvious and rather sensitive question of whether the Iraqis would stand for this continued American control, a US official in Baghdad had it all figured out: He declared that the Iraqis could hardly claim that Iraq’s sovereignty was compromised by having its troops under American command when nations like Britain and Poland had placed military contingents in Iraq under an American general. "There’s no sovereignty issue for them," he said.{2}


Guinea pigs fighting for freedom and democracy

Jessica Horjus, a member of the US Air Force, refused to take the anthrax vaccine before deploying to a base in Kuwait, about 30 miles from Iraq, primarily because no anthrax has been found in Iraq; the vaccine moreover is a product that has accumulated thousands of reports of adverse reactions ranging from headaches and vomiting to severe autoimmune and neurological problems. Despite this and despite four years service and commendations and Good Conduct Medals, Horjus’ commander demoted her and cut her pay in half.

In February, she declined a second and third order. In March, the young mother accepted the Air Force’s offer of an other-than-honorable discharge. Some who have declined the vaccine have been imprisoned; others have been threatened with up to 10 years in prison, more than even rape or drug charges may bring in the military. Soldiers, citizen groups and members of Congress are increasingly calling upon defense officials to stop the vaccinations, which have been declined by numerous members of the armed services. All to no avail.{3}

What lies behind the military’s obstinate refusal to bend and its desire to severely punish?

Could it be that the Pentagon wants the vaccinations to continue so that statistics can be further compiled and refined about the effects of the vaccine? This would of course be using members of the armed forces as guinea pigs, a practice which has a long tradition in the US military … GIs marched to nuclear explosion sites, subjected to chemical and biological weapons experiments, radiation experiments, behavior modification experiments that washed their brains with LSD, the list goes on … literally millions of experimental subjects, seldom given a choice or adequate information, often with disastrous effects to their physical and/or mental health, rarely with proper medical care or even monitoring.{4}


What part of "no" don’t they understand?

During a visit to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan on February 25, US Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld was moved to declare: "It’s interesting when one thinks about the problem of Iraq and their unwillingness to disarm that Kazakhstan stands as an impressive model of how a country can do it."

Rumsfeld’s words inspire one to ask again the immortal question: Huh? Hasn’t the man heard yet that Iraq did disarm? And rather thoroughly it would appear. Can we soon expect George W. to once again call upon Iraq to disarm? "Had Iraq followed the Kazakhstan model after 17 U.N. resolutions and disarmed the way Kazakhstan did, there would not have been a war," Rumsfeld added.{5}

There’s no reason to assume that anything short of the second coming would have dissuaded the imperial mafia to change their long-held plans to conquer Iraq, but one still might ask, as supporters of the war have: Why didn’t Iraq announce before the invasion that it had no weapons of mass destruction?

There are several answers to this question, the most important one being: They did! Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz announced it on at least two occasions on American television. In August 2002 he told Dan Rather: "We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons."{6} In December he asserted to Ted Koppel: "The fact is that we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry."{7}

But in any event, the Bush administration knew perfectly well that Iraq’s military capability was nothing to be concerned about at all. Here’s Colin Powell, speaking in February 2001 of US sanctions on Iraq: "And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."{8}

And here is Condoleezza Rice, in July of that year, speaking of Saddam Hussein: "We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."{9}

Personal responsibility a la America

"A compassionate society is one in which people respect one another, respect their religious views, respect their opinions. It’s a society in which people take responsibility for the decisions they make." George W. Bush {10}

It’s unclear what taking responsibility for one’s decisions has to do with compassion, but the virtue that American society supposedly attaches to such behavior is legendary; many a Western film has revolved around the mystique of personal responsibility. Thus it is that if people have problems caused by alcohol, owners of liquor stores and distilleries are not arrested.

If people have problems caused by smoking, cigarette vendors and manufacturers are not arrested.

If people have problems caused by obesity, food vendors and food manufacturers are not arrested.

Yet, if people have problems caused by recreational drugs, or even if they don’t have problems but use or merely possess the drugs, those associated in any way with making such drugs available to the public are put away by the millions for god-awful long times.


Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

You’ve read about liberals starting their own radio network to compete with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly? When I first read about this I was only mildly enthused because, as I’ve mentioned before in this report, it’s a fallacy to pose liberals as polar opposites to such conservatives. Will they be ideologically challenging and tough enough, I wondered. But I was willing to keep an open mind and give them a chance. Then I read of the name of the new liberal network — "Air America". A name intimately associated — indeed, virtually synonymous with — the CIA for more than 50 years, the Agency’s principal airline.

It’s not broadcast in my area, but I read a report of the station’s first day on the air: Michael Moore apologizing to Al Gore for supporting Ralph Nader in 2000. A defense of Janet Reno’s response to "terrorism" compared with that of John Ashcroft. (Did someone mention "Waco"?) Janeane Garofalo complaining about the "very vulgar things" said about Bill Clinton. Did they miss anyone in their valentine to the Democratic administration? Hillary Clinton was slated to appear on Day Two.{11} Air America has the potential to do more harm to the progressive cause than Fox News Channel. Unsophisticated listeners, i.e., most Americans, will listen in and think that THIS is the alternative to what I’ve been hearing from the likes of Fox or neo-cons, and never imagine the world above and beyond; conservatives need not feel particularly threatened in their beliefs.

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir. He can be reached at:


{1} Washington Post, March 8,2004

{2} New York Times, March 26, 2004

{3} Washington Post, March 27, 2004

{4} WILLIAM BLUM, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp.3-4

{5} Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2004

{6} CBS Evening News, August 20, 2002

{7} ABC Nightline, December 4, 2002

{8} State Department press release, February 24, 2001

{9} CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, July 29, 2001

{10} White House press release, January 29, 2004, from Bush speech

{11} Washington Post, April 1, 2004