FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

BS and CBS

Is anything more satisfying for media watchers and conservatives than to pounce on the journalist who has sinned by publishing supposedly-erroneous information? For years, right wing ministers of hysteria have been out to nail C.B.S. anchor Dan Rather, whom they regard as poster boy of the much-reviled “liberal” press. They finally had him in their sights when his 60 Minutes report on the questionable National Guard service of George W. Bush used questionable documents to question our unquestionable and error-averse President of the United States. Some of Rather’s able C.B.S. colleagues were dismissed for over-zealous reporting. Much to the disappointment of Rather Bashers, Dan Rather survived the storm and will retire on a schedule presumed to be of his own choosing.

But why so much ado about a serious report that, whatever its faults, had truth at its core? Was it because the press must refrain from criticizing the omnipotent Republican King of the Realm, especially during an election year? Did fawning corporate executives cave to pressure from powerful shakers in high places? Was this specific fifteen minutes of infamy as appalling as many have suggested?

Nearly two years ago on February 23, 2003, shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the C.B.S. program 60 Minutes ran an interview with Dr. Hussein Shahristani, formerly a top nuclear scientist in Saddam Hussein’s regime. Apparently bitten by the now-discredited Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction Bug that was then infecting political discourse to justify the undeclared war with Iraq, 60 Minutes devoted serious air time to reporter Steve Kroft’s interview with Shahristani, whose “facts” lent authenticity to the Bush claim that Iraq was awash in WMD.

The central message from Shahristani was that Saddm had converted his unfinished Baghdad subway system into a secret hiding place for his WMD stockpile. The interview was conducted with total seriousness, and it appeared to give substance to Bush Administration claims that Saddam had massive amounts of WMD. They were safely cached beneath Baghdad.

The doctor quoted Saddam as saying, “Well, we have these designs for the tunnels, go ahead and do them, but not for metro, for our weapons of mass destruction. We can hide them, move them around.” Furthermore, the doctor speculated, the tunnels would provide Saddam with a convenient escape route should the threatened invasion actually occur. “He actually has a tunnel that can withstand a nuclear blast and if he survives in the tunnel, he has won the war because, for him, winning the war means surviving it,i Shahristani told Kroft. That was before Saddam was found residing, not in a tunnel, but in a small hole in the ground.

Recently the Bush Administration was prodded to reveal that its 1700 person force diligently searching for hidden WMD has come up empty. The Shahristani story of weapons stored in unfinished subway tunnels was just that: a story, pure fiction, just as it had seemed to some who watched the program during its original broadcast.

The purported substance of the Kroft interview provoked no firings at C.B.S., even though Shahristani’s straight-faced (and untrue) allegations were not verified, even though the interview gave seemingly-strong support to the Bush Administration fiction that hidden WMD required the U.S. to invade Iraq, dispose of Saddam and destroy his massive WMD stockpiles.

The C.B.S. firings over Dan Rather’s report examining the National Guard service of George W. Bush might seem to some an over-reaction in the light of the earlier Shahristani interview. Whatever the merits of the documents relied upon by Rather and some producers at 60 Minutes, there is substance to the still-unanswered questions the report raised about the president’s military service record. Investigators were not even able to state with certainty whether the Bush/Guard documents that caused the uproar over 60 Minutes and the eventual firings at C.B.S. were authentic or falsified.

On the other hand, there was absolutely no substance to the fantasy outlined by Shahristani and his all-but-forgotten description of a subway system to nowhere. Because the good doctor’s bogus claims deliberately supported the WMD “line” the Bush Administration was feeding its audience, stoking a fire to take the nation into war, there was no outcry from those critics who now excoriate Dan Rather and 60 Minutes for airing a story that did and still does have legs.

DOUG GIEBEL is a writer and analyst who lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He welcomes correspondence at dougcatz@ttc-cmc.net

More articles by:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail