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: BBlum6@aol.com

{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


William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com