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Cheney Breaks the Taboo

If we hear in the coming days that former Vice President Dick Cheney has fired one of his speechwriters — or perhaps grounded Lynne or Liz — it will be clear why.

Oozing out of the sleazy speech he gave Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute was an inadvertent truth regarding the Israeli albatross hanging around the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

I watched the speech, but had missed the gaffe until I went carefully through the written text before a radio interview Thursday evening. It amounts to a major faux pas, though I’ll give you odds that the usual-suspect pundits of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) will not touch it, because it raises troubling questions about the close U.S. relationship with Israel.

I wanted my 10-year-old grandson to learn a nice word to describe the arguments in the former Vice President’s speech, so he has now learned “disingenuous.” Today we’ll study “superficial,” for that is the right adjective to assign to both Cheney and President Barack Obama as they addressed the threat of “terrorism,” the threat always guaranteed to resonate among Americans — much like the threat of communism did, not too many decades back.

To burnish his anti-terrorist credentials, Obama pledged to do whatever is necessary to protect the United States and warned that al-Qaeda is “actively plotting to attack us again.”

What continues to be missing in the rhetoric of both Obama and Cheney is any discussion of al-Qaeda’s actual capability to perpetrate, in Cheney’s words, “a 9/11 with nuclear weapons” or some other scary thought designed to make Americans hand over their liberties for some dubious promise of safety. Equally important — and equally missing — there is never any sensible examination of the motives that might be driving what Cheney called this “same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers [who] are still there.”

There are a number of reasons why al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements wish to attack us, but this question never gets a complete – or honest – answer, certainly not from the FCM or from the mouths of politicians like Cheney and Obama.

Why They Hate Us

Cheney’s explanation of a motive mostly reprised George W. Bush’s old “the terrorists hate our freedoms” canard. Cheney said the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world — for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences,” an odd set of qualities for Cheney to cite given his roles in violating constitutional rights, torturing captives and spreading falsehoods to justify invading Iraq.

But that’s also where Cheney slipped up. You didn’t notice? Well, Cheney couldn’t resist expanding on the complaints of the terrorists:

“They have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion…our belief in equal rights for women…our support for Israel… — these are the true sources of resentment…”

“Our support for Israel.” Cheney got that part right.

My radio interview Thursday was with an FCM station, and I thought I would make an extra effort to be “fair and balanced.” So I noted that, to his credit, Cheney — advertently or inadvertently — did articulate one of the (usually unspoken) key reasons “why they hate us.”

I was immediately jumped on, figuratively, not only by the interviewee representing “the other side,” but also by the not-so-fair-and-balanced moderator. My interlocutors did not seem all that hospitable to facts, but I thought I owed them a try at adducing some anyway.

9/11, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed…and 9/11…

In his speech, Cheney mentioned 9/11 some 30 Times — for reasons that by this stage are obvious to all. Referring specifically to waterboarding, Cheney said that waterboardee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the mastermind of 9/11 … also boasted about beheading Daniel Pearl.” (Here, I thought, is a really good example of “disingenuous” — a nice concrete example for my grandson. For the only thing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did NOT take responsibility for, after being waterboarded 183 Times, was climate change.)

But since the name Khalid Sheikh Mohammed came up, I asked my two interlocutors if they knew how “KSM” explained why he masterminded 9/11. Apparently, neither had made it as far as page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report, so I told them what the 9/11 Commission found on that key point:

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

KSM, you see, had attended North Carolina A & T in Greensboro, and apparently the first thought that came to those drafting the 9/11 report was that perhaps he had suffered some gross indignity accounting for his hatred for America. Not so.

Moreover, the footnote section (page 488 of the 9/11 Commission Report) reveals that KSM was not the only terrorist motivated by “U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel”:

“On KSM’s rationale for attacking the United States, see Intelligence report, interrogation of KSM, Sept. 5, 2003 (in this regard, KSM’s statements echo those of Yousef, who delivered an extensive polemic against U.S. foreign policy at his January 1998 sentencing).”

The reference is to Ramzi Yousef, KSM’s nephew. The 9/11 Commission Report had noted earlier (page 147) that, “Yousef’s instant notoriety as the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing inspired KSM to become involved in planning attacks against the United States.”

In the “Recommendations” section of its final report, the 9/11 Commission suggested:

“America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world. … Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger.” (pp 376-377)

These observations seemed to strike my radio interlocutors as unfit for the airwaves. When the shouts of protest died down, there was an opportunity to offer additional evidence, so I threw in what a prestigious board appointed by the Pentagon had to say about all this over four years ago.

Defense Science Board Report

Are you ready for a scoop that is not a scoop, but that almost no one knows about?

It has to do with an unclassified study published, not by some “liberal” think-tank, but by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board just two months after the 9/11 Commission Report. That report directly contradicted what Cheney and President Bush had been saying about “why they hate us,” letting the elephant out of the bag and into the room, so to speak:

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

You didn’t know about that report? Well, maybe this is because of the timing. The Defense Science Board final report was given to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sept. 23, 2004, just weeks before the presidential election.

That is a time when presidential candidates and the U.S. Establishment in general are hyper-allergic to discussing how U.S. support for Israeli policies toward the Palestinians encourages the recruitment of anti-American terrorists.

Suppressed, Then Gutted

Bending over backwards to oblige, the FCM suppressed the Defense Science Board findings until after the election. On Nov. 24, 2004, the New York Times, erstwhile “newspaper of record,” did publish a story on the board’s report — but performed some highly interesting surgery.

Thom Shanker of the Times quoted the paragraph beginning with “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom'” (see above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following sentence about what Muslims do object to; i.e., U.S. “one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights” and support for tyrannical regimes. The Times did include the sentence that immediately followed the omitted one. In other words, it was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the offending middle sentence was surgically removed.

Similarly creative editing showed through the Times’ reporting in late October 2004 on a videotaped speech by Osama bin Laden. Almost six paragraphs of the story made it onto page one, but the Times saw to it that the key point bin Laden made at the beginning of his presentation was relegated to paragraphs 23 to 25 at the very bottom of page nine.

Buried there was bin Laden’s assertion that the idea for 9/11 first germinated after “we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American-Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.”

Wading through the drivel in the FCM’s Times and Washington Post on Friday morning, I am hardly surprised that they missed Cheney’s slip about U.S. policy toward Israel being one of the terrorists’ “true sources of resentment.”

RAY McGOVERN was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@aol.com

A shorter version of this article appeared at Consortiumnews.com.

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Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@gmail.com. A version of this article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.  

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