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From the White House to CBS

A Trail of American Blood

by Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS

A classic denial of reality is seen in the defensive reactions of CBS "60 Minutes" reporter Scott Pelley in his September 23, 2007 interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pelley’s defensiveness is an attempt to deny the reality of an American foreign policy soaked in blood: "The American people believe . . . your country is a terrorist nation," and that "you have American blood on your hands," because "it is an established fact now that Iranian bombs and know-how are killing Americans in Iraq." Ahmadinejad responded that "American officials" were making that charge to divert attention from their failed policy in Iraq, a policy opposed by many Americans, and that he was "amazed" that Pelley, "representing a media and . . . a reporter" would "speak for . . . 300 million" Americans. Pelley repeated, "Many Americans believe that you have American blood on your hands." Scott Pelley and CBS do not want the American people to know who really has "American blood" on their hands.

CBS itself has "American blood" on its hands. On February 5, 2003, CBS’s "60 Minutes II" presented a program designed to build public support for pre-emptive war against Iraq called, "The Case Against Saddam" [italics added]. "The Case" began with Secretary of State Colin Powell, fresh from his blatantly false, dishonorable UN presentation on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction that morning, telling host Dan Rather, "I spent most of the last four days going over every sentence in my statement. . . . What you see is the truth . . . I think I put forward a case today that said . . . there are many smoking guns."

CBS’s "The Case Against Saddam" followed Secretary of State Powell with a clip of Saddam Hussein in a recent rare interview saying, "I tell you, as I have said on many occasions before, that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq whatsoever. And we challenge those who say the opposite to give the simplist proof. These weapons are not aspirin pills that one can have in his pockets."

"60 Minutes II" commentator Bob Simon then introduced CBS News consultant and Johns Hopkins University professor of Middle Eastern Studies Fouad Ajami "to help us make sense of Saddam’s answers" [italics added]. Ajami responded, "The charm of Saddam Hussein. If you will, in a very perverse way, is this attempt to seem like a reasonable man." But he is not: as Ajami then explained, "Saddam . . . gets this softball question: ‘Do you have weapons of mass destruction?’ He says, ‘you can’t hide them.’ Well, in fact we know you can hide them."

CBS News Consultant Fouad Ajami’s "own judgment is that the people of Iraq will not fight for Saddam Hussein." His "own guess [is] that were we to enter Baghdad when the time comes to do so [italics added], it will be exactly a repeat of what happened in Kabal when the Americans came into Afghanistan and were greeted by kites and music and boom boxes, and people were glad to be rid of the Taliban."(Feb. 5, 2003)

Tragically for the lifeblood of Iraqi and US citizens alike, Fouad Ajami obviously was saying what he thought CBS and the Bush administration wanted to hear. There is no "music to anyone’s ears in Afghanistan or Iraq today. In fact, a recent United Nation’s report states that "violence in Afghanistan has surged nearly 30% this year and suicide bombings are inflicting a high toll on civilians." ("Afghan violence up 30 percent, UN says," by Jason Straziuso and Rahim Faiez, Associated Press, The Boston Globe, Oct. 3, 2007)

Nor were weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, nor ties to the horrible attack against America on 9/11/01, as the Bush administration repeatedly charged to justify its fear-and-war-mongering invasion and occupation of Iraq. There is only ground soaked with much Iraqi and American blood.

Bob Simon ended "The Case Against Saddam" by saying "The interview is vintage Saddam." It was actually "vintage" CBS news that’s fit to cover up the Bush administration’s blood-soaked foreign policy for oil and empire. Blood for oil.

Who has "American blood" on their hands? Secretary of State Colin Powell’s dramatic falsely-based indictment of a weapons of mass destruction "armed" Iraq before the UN was not only reported but affirmed by many in mainstream media. "Powell’s briefing was not only breathtaking in scope but utterly convincing," Boston Globe colunist H.D.S. Greenway wrote in a piece called "A compelling case is made for action." (Feb. 7, 2003) "Powell has convinced me," was the title of syndicated columnist Mary McGrory’s piece, "and I was as tough as France to convince," she wrote. (The Boston Globe, Feb. 8, 2003) New York Times writer William Safire’s column hailed Powell’s "proof of Saddam’s cover-up" as "irrefutable and undeniable." (Feb. 6, 2003) A New York Times editorial said that "Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have." (Feb. 6, 2003). And there was New York Times writer Judith Miller taking falsehoods of US administration and military officials and Iraqi exiles and spinning terrifying front-page stories of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. (See "The New York Times’ role in promoting war in Iraq," by Antony Loewenstein, Fairfax Digital, Mar. 23, 2004.)

Boston Globe media writer Mark Jurkowitz’s piece entitled "Powell’s UN speech proves persuasive for commentators" began, "Secretary of State Colin Powell’s dramatic Feb. 5 presentation at the UN may not have convinced the French, German or Russians of the need to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. But is seemed to work wonders on opinion makers and editorial shakers in the media universe." Jurkowitz’s conclusion was based on two studies of the editorials in many of the nation’s largest newspapers before and after Powell’s speech: one survey found "those considered ‘war skeptics’ plummeted from 29 to 11." (Feb. 13, 2003)

Who has "American blood" on their hands? Many mainstream media played a largely advocacy rather than an investigative role in the run-up to the Bush administration’s criminal war of choice against Iraq. The following Boston Globe editorials, most written long before Secretary of State Powell’s UN presentation, are believed to be typical of widespread uncritical dominant media acceptance and promotion of the Bush administration’s "Case Against Saddam." "Bush was fittingly candid in saying that ‘though all options are on the table,’ the ‘one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction.’ In reality," the editorial continued, "Saddam already has large quantities of chemical and biological weapons [italics added]. (Mar. 15, 2002) "[Britian Prime Minister Tony] Blair’s lucid truth [italics added] is that . . . the world cannot allow such a mass murderer to threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction." (Sept. 29, 2002) "The surest way to unveil his weapons of mass destruction[italics added] is to make certain [Hans] Blix [chief UN weapons inspector] brings knowledgeable Iraqi scientists and officials out of Iraq with their families so that they can tell the truth without fear. The international community can then free Iraqis from Saddam’s tyranny." (Dec. 6, 2002) "The particular means for liberating Iraqis [from "Saddam's police state"] will be less important in the long run [italics added] than the character of the government that comes after Saddam’s fall." (June 19, 2002) "If U.S. action in coming months leads to Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, there will be jubilation in Iraq [italics added] that the monster who murdered and tortured so many people and ruined the life of entire generations is finally gone." (Oct. 21, 2002) "Nothing could mean more to the reputation of America in the world [italics added] than for Bush to keep his promise to support a democratic future for Iraqis after the long nightmare of Saddam’s regime." (Mar. 18, 2003)

Who has "American blood" on their hands? The dominant uncritical daily widespread advance billing of many mainstream media was "Showdown with Iraq." A media image was presented of Saddam Hussein waiting in the desert at high noon with weapons of mass destruction hidden in the sand, ready to take on the deadliest "dead-or-alive" gun-fighting superpower in the West-and that superpower’s British sidekick to boot. Coming soon to your living room television screen: the Mother of all reality shows. A predominantly pro-Bush administration American media then presented a "sanitized" war for our patriotic viewing, reading and listening pleasure. Nightly "shock and awe" bombs bursting in air, as entertaining "fireworks over Baghdad," on our television screens. With the blood-spattered lives of dead Iraqi men, women and children hidden under media-glamorized "precision" and "smart" bombs. The war-marketing slogan: "We aim to please!"

Who has "American blood" on their hands? In a pre-war Action Alert called "Do Media Know That War Kills?," Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) reveals the culpability of mainstream media: "Despite daily reports about the ‘showdown’ with Iraq, Americans heard very little from mainstream media about the most basic fact of war: People will be killed and civilian infrastructure will be destroyed, with devastating consequences for public health long after the fighting stops." FAIR found, "Since the beginning of the year, according to a search of the Nexis database (1/1/03 ­ 3/12/03), none of the three major television networks’ nightly national newscasts ­ ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, or NBC Nightly News ­ have examined in detail what long-term impact war will have on humanitarian conditions in Iraq. They’ve also downplayed the immediate civilian deaths that will be caused by a U.S. attack." (Mar. 14, 2003)

The reality of "Showdown with Iraq": "people [continue being] killed and civilian infrastructure . . . destroyed, with devastating consequences for public health long after the fighting stops." Over a million Iraqi civilians dead, the country’s life-sustaining infrastructure decimated; some four million citizens forced to flee as refugees inside and outside their country; a deadly massive civil war raging, triggered by the US-led invasion and occupation; over 3800 U.S. deaths confirmed and tens of thousands wounded in body, mind and spirit; ("Casualties in Iraq-2007, antiwar.com); the terrible waste of our nation’s resources; and a Bush-administration-bred mercenary "Blackwater" mentality’s indiscriminate killing of Iraqi people, further inflaming Iraqi and world opinion against America. A horrible, blood-soaked international American-made criminal war and occupation, seeking to be denied and hidden by a defensive foreign reporter of a bloodstained news outlet telling Iraq’s neighboring president, "Many American believe that you have American blood on your hands."

"The Case Against Saddam." "Showdown with Iraq." "The Battle for Iraq." "The Struggle for Iraq" "America in Iraq" These and other mainstream media’s palatable-for-public-consumption captions change. But they cannot make culpability for the criminal sacrifice of "American [and Iraqi] blood" disappear. Smoke and mirror captions of advocacy rather than investigative American mainstream press.

Who has "American blood" on their hands? As recently as a news conference in Chicago on July 7, 2006, President Bush repeated an outright lie in front of uncritical national and local reporters: "I have always said that it’s important for an American president to exhaust all diplomatic avenues before the use of force. . . . All diplomatic avenues were exhausted, as far as I was concerned, with Saddam Hussein [italics added]. (Transcript, ‘President Bush Holds a News Conference in Chicago," CQ Transcripts Wire washingtonpost.com, July 7, 2006)

Reporters could have had a field day with President Bush’s falsehoods. He repeatedly justified his administration’s pre-emptive war against Iraq by saying, "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof-and the smoking gun-that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." ("President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat," Cincinnati, Ohio, The White House, Oct. 7, 2002). And three days before invading Iraq, he warned, "The danger is clear. Using chemical, biological or one day nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambition to kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other." ("President Bush Presents 48 Hour Ultimatum," Address to the Nation, The White House, Mar. 17, 2003)

"All diplomatic options were exhausted," President Bush could even get away with repeating to reporters over three years later. Over two months before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, an Associated Press story quoted chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as saying, ‘We have now been there [in Iraq] for some two months and been covering the country in ever widening sweeps and we haven’t found any smoking guns. ("Blix Says No Smoking Guns Found in Iraq," by Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2003). Later Blix was reported to have "lamented" the aborting of the UN inspections by Bush’s invasion of Iraq. A Boston Globe story quoted Blix as saying, "I don’t think it is reasonable to close the door to inspections after three-and-a-half months." He "would have welcomed some months more. . . . While inspectors followed up leads from US intelligence," the story continued, "Blix said, ‘I must regret we have not found the results in so many cases.’ We certainly have not found any smoking guns." (Mar. 19, 2003)

"We cannot wait for the final proof-and the smoking gun." President Bush repeatedly charged to a receptive mainstream media that Saddam Hussein was playing "a game of deception" with the UN inspectors. Bush was playing a game of deception and not Hussein. The only weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq are America’s.

Who has "American blood" on their hands? A glaring example of "news" that’s "print to fit" was President Bush’s orchestrated March 6, 2003 news conference shortly before his administration launched its war of choice. Typical of the controlled "give-and-take" was a question from a black woman reporter: "As the nation is at odds over war, with many organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus pushing for continued diplomacy through the UN, how is your faith guiding you?" Bush replied, "I appreciate that question a lot." He then said, "My faith sustains me. Because I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace." (The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2003) Two weeks later the Bush administration unleashed its long-planned pre-emptive war against Iraq-with few in mainstream media asking to whom does President Bush pray. Bush then repeatedly used his god to justify and hide his administration’s blood-drenched aggression against the Iraqi people: "Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to every man and woman in the world." ("Acceptance speech to Republican Convention Delegates," The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2004) Tell that to the millions of Iraqi mothers and fathers and children being ground under by such "freedom." The idolatry of ideology and theology used to justify high crimes. It should be painfully obvious by now: President Bush’s god has "American blood" on his hands-and so much Iraqi and other Muslim blood as well.

Reporters like Scott Pelley would find instructive certain comments of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. When Pelley asked Ahmadinejad, "What do you admire in President Bush?," the Iranian president hesitated, which led Pelley to say, "Well, Mr. Bush is, without question, a very religious man [italics added] for example, as you are. I wonder if there’s anything that you’ve seen in President Bush that you admire." A disingenuous question by a reporter who knows Bush has condemned Ahmadinejad as a tyrant, called Iran part of an "axis of evil," and has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iran’s nuclear power facilities-which he sees as hiding a nuclear weapon-"mushroom cloud" like he did Iraq. Ahmadinejad replied, "Well, is Mr. Bush a religious man?" "Very much so. As you are," Pelley responded. Ahmadinejad then asked the question American reporters should have been asking from the moment Bush said, "I pray daily . . . for peace," and two weeks later launched his administration’s criminal war. Ahmadinejad responded:

What religion, please tell me, tells you as a follower of that religion to occupy another country and kill its people? Please tell me. Does Christianity tell its followers to do that? Judaism, for that matter? Islam, for that matter? What prophet tells you to send 160,000 troops to another country, kill men, women and children? You just can’t wear your religion on your sleeve or just go to church. You should be truthfully religious. Religion tells us all that you should respect the property, the life of different people. Respect human rights. Love your fellow man.

Pelley avoided Ahmadinejad’s response to his assertion that "Mr. Bush is without question, a very religious man," by saying "I take it you can’t think of anything you like about President Bush."

Scott Pelley’s assertion that "Mr. Bush is without question, a very religious man," reveals an incredible lack of investigative skepticism and inquisitiveness.

In the face of the falsehoods underlying "The Case Against Saddam," and the bloodbath of "Showdown with Iraq," a needfully defensive Scott Pelley says to President Ahmadinejad, "But the American people, sir, believe that your country is a terrorist nation, exporting terrorism in the world . . . You have American blood on your hands." And "want[ing] to be very direct and very clear," Pelley repeated, "Many Americans believe that you have American blood on your hands . . . Sir, forgive me, you’re smiling," Pelley observed, "but this is a very serious matter to America." Ahmadinejad’s reponse clearly indicates which one is in touch with reality and which is defending against it. "Well, it’s serious for us as well. I daresay it’s serious to everyone." Ahmadinejad then said,

I’m just amazed as the representative of the media, why do you insist on the untrue accusation leveled by your government? This doesn’t solve anything. It seems to me it’s laughable for someone to turn a blind eye to the truth and accuse others. It doesn’t help. And the reason that I’m smiling again, it’s because the picture’s so clear. But American officials refuse to see it. And I think that as a member of the media, your responsibility here is to talk about the truth and back home to force your officials to appreciate the truth and to take the correct decision. . . . Many thousands of American soldiers have been killed. They need to answer for their action. Instead of answering those questions, they are accusing others."

Scott Pelley accused Ahmadinejad of "dodging the questions" and repeated, "Will you pledge tonight to do everything in your power to prevent Iranian arms from entering Iraq?," The Iranian President replied, "Well, I think you have been charged with a mission to repeat a sentence over and over again. My comments are very clear. I think you should go back and take American officials to task. Use the same force you are using right now so that they take the troops out."

The New York Times reports that "the Bush administration has been considering whether to classify the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group." (Oct. 8, 2007) The Bush administration is a terrorist group.

The "American officials" who need to hear the truth include the leading Democratic presidential candidates. In a September 26 debate in Hanover, New Hampshire, they refused to pledge to end the occupation of Iraq and bring the US forces home by 2013, the end of their presidential term, if elected. When asked if they could make such a commitment, Illinois Senator Barack Obama replied, "I think it is hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there." Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards responded. "I cannot make that commitment." And Senator Hillary Clinton of New York answered, " . . . I agree with Barack. It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting." ("The Democratic Presidential Debate on MSNBC," Transcript, The New York Times, Sept. 26, 2007) Obama, Edwards and Clinton are willing to have "American blood" on their hands through their presidency.

Senator Clinton also appears to be willing to have "American blood" on her hands in Iran. She voted for the recent Senate resolution calling on the Bush administration to classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. ("Obama launches attack on Clinton over Iran," By Marcella Bombardieri, The Boston Globe, Oct. 12, 2007) And in a policy statement on "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century," appearing in the Nov./Dec. 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, she wrote, "Iran . . . must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table" (italics added). In the face of her support for the Bush administration’s falsely-based, criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, she also wrote, "Iran . . . is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism." She even stated, "Our quarrel is not with {the Iranian people} but with their government." Echoes of President Bush’s words before US state-sponsored terrorism was unleashed on Iraq.

The commitment of the leading presidential candidates is about dodging reality. Whoever is elected president in 2008 will have "inherited" a blatant, globally condemned, international war crime against humanity that needs to be ended now. Accompanied by American-led reparations and works of restitution beginning immediately. And the glaring perpetrators of this horrific crime brought to justice before they trigger a war against Iran to further cover up their imperialistic blood for oil policies against the people of Iraq and America. Instead of a planned presidential library for George W. Bush at accommodating Southern Methodist University, there should be a jail cell in his future-and that of his vice president and other war-mongering imperialistic advisors.

Everyone bleeds human. And the lifeblood of every human being is sacred.

Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at william.alberts@bmc.org.