Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Maureen Farrell: Top 10 'Conspiracy Theories' about George W. Bush

by Maureen Farrell

"It is incumbent upon journalists, I think, to distrust conspiracy theories. But the problem with the conspiracy theory of the machine that lifted George 'Dubya' Bush to high office is that it never lets you down. . ."
-- Ed Vulliamy, the Observer, Aug. 24, 2003

"This is a government takeover and Bush and Cheney are running it."
-- The Chattanoogan, Dec. 21, 2005

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, a friend sent me an obscure book featuring predictions by a blind Native American shaman. It was a thoughtful, but annoying, gesture. For all I knew, this "seer" could merely be a James Frey-sized figment of the author's imagination and these so-called prophecies could be nothing more than a patchwork of hunches. A prediction that the Red Sox would win the World Series would have been impressive. But wars? Economic downturns? Environmental disasters? Yawn.

This was the age of forged Nostradamus quotes and apocalyptic visions, however, and, with debunking in mind, I plodded ahead. Some predictions, which were reportedly made in 1982, were decidedly silly. Others, however, don't exactly ring foolish. Among the more noteworthy:

* Propaganda and terrorism will increase.
* Religious zealots will use the courts to try to force their views upon the general public.
* The Supreme Court will make unfortunate decisions that don't benefit the people.
* Several undeclared wars will be waged simultaneously.
* There will be high-level secrecy and clandestine agreements between nations.
* America will eventually become a police state.
* The draft will be reinstated.
* Americans will learn of government duplicity and cover-ups.

Whether or not this list is the result of guesswork, fabrications or something else, nearly a quarter of a century later, such musings have gone from the fringe to the forefront. Police state predictions? Check. Rumors of wars? Check. Clandestine agreements between nations? Check. Discoveries of government duplicity and cover-ups? Triple check.

Predictions are not the same thing as conspiracy theories, of course, but both can occur simultaneously. Sept. 11 commission co-chair Lee Hamilton's prediction that another terrorist attack is all but certain, for example, when combined with concerns about George W. Bush's imperial ambitions, creates the kind of speculation the founding fathers engaged in, long before FOX News was there to pooh-pooh concerns about tyrannical designs.

And though predictions and conspiracy theories are often speculative and contrived, it must be remembered that the term "tin foil hat" has its roots in historical fact and the tendency to tag a "gate" onto scandals proves that some conspiracy theories do, in fact, turn out to be true.

With the most secretive, power-hungry administration in recent history, George W. Bush has generated a cornucopia of theories. Many of them are ridiculous while others, like the assorted conspiracies relating to Skull and Bones, simply confirm suspicions about frat boys and prove that privilege and networking do, in fact, catapult people into high places.

Some theories, however, have Tina Turner-strength legs. For your consideration:

10. A Second Terror Attack Will Allow the Bush Administration to Complete the "Coup" that Began on Sept. 11, 2001

"September 11, 2001, played into neoconservative hands exactly as the 1933 Reichstag fire played into Hitler's hands. Fear hysteria, and national emergency are proven tools of political power grabs. Now that the federal courts are beginning to show some resistance to Bush's claims of power, will another terrorist attack allow the Bush administration to complete its coup?"
-- Former Reagan administration official and Wall Street Journal and National Review assistant editor Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 2, 2006

"The 9-11 attacks provided the rationale for what amounts to a Bush family coup against the Constitution."
-- James Ridgeway, The Village Voice, Dec. 30, 2005

Six years ago, anyone suggesting that the Bush administration would use terror to achieve pre-packaged goals would have been laughed out of Dodge. The signs were there, however, going all the way back to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's stints in the Ford administration through their participation in Reagan-era Doomsday drills.

Initially, there were vague murmurings over foreign airways. "There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government," a mysterious American told the BBC in Nov. 2001, regarding allegations that the FBI was told to "back off" the bin Ladens. "Unnamed sources" eventually morphed into real people, however, and by the time Pentagon insider Karen Kwiatkowski came forward with revelations about what she called "a coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon," and respected journalist Seymour Hersh proclaimed that "cultists" had "taken the government over," this theory gained traction.

Despite attempts to discredit true believers as "full-mooners," revelations continued. And now that a former Bush administration official is saying that a "cabal" led by Rumsfeld and Cheney "hijacked US foreign policy" and a former Reagan administration official is saying that America is now an "incipient dictatorship," the ideology of Loon Land is capital T Truth to some very smart people.

Gen. Tommy Franks, you might recall, famously predicted that another terror attack will militarize our society and obliterate the Constitution, former White House counsel John Dean has warned of "constitutional dictatorship" and Paul Craig Roberts has openly wondered if another terror attack will lead to a total usurpation of constitutional government and "allow the Bush administration to complete its coup."

Roberts, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, also believes that a "Jacobin coup" took place after Sept. 11 and that a "police state" is fast approaching. Joining the host of others raising concerns about questionable elections and a Supreme Court poised to give the executive branch unprecedented power, he sees "America's descent into dictatorship" as the "result of historical developments and of old political battles." But, he also contends that President Bush "is unlikely to be aware that the Constitution is experiencing its final rending on his watch."

Others are not so certain.

9. President Bush is Trampling the Constitution and Turning America into a Dictatorship

"The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush's abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history... There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war, deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship." -- The Nation, Jan. 9, 2006

"After September 11, we did not, for example, change from a democracy to a dictatorship, from a nation of laws to a nation in which one man endows himself with the authority to act above the law, immune to its dictates and limitations. We are not that country. We must never become that country. However, to hear President Bush, we are that country already." -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec. 20, 2005.

To understand the origins of this theory, one would have to go back to America's founding, when James Madison wrote that the accumulation of power in any one of the three" separate and distinct" branches of government was the "very definition of tyranny." Fast forward to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's dream of "restoring the imperial presidency," George W. Bush's jokes about an American dictatorship, and arguments regarding the "Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency," and suddenly Thomas Jefferson's observation that tyranny is the natural progression of all governments seems frighteningly apt.

Similar conspiracy theories were circulated during the Clinton years, too, you might recall, and when the Village Voice's Nat Hentoff called President Clinton a "serial violator of the Bill Of Rights," he was tapping into an authoritarian trend that diehard Democrats preferred to ignore. (Republicans who gladly ignore the Constitution and rule of law are also guilty of putting power over principle.)

But even so, under Bush, authoritarianism thrived. "According to Bush doctrine, there are no checks and balances in American government anymore. A president can do what he pleases in the name of national security, and neither Congress nor the judiciary can stop him. At the end of the day, that is the real threat to American democracy," the Minneapolis Star Tribune explained.
Just how much of a threat? In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush installed a shadow government and restricted access to presidential records. Posse Comitatus, the law forbidding the military from being used to police US citizens, is on its last legs, -- and a new provision in the Patriot Act will create a federal police force with unprecedented power. A former Bush White House insider has described "decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy," and the Supreme Court is poised to further tilt the balance of powers towards the executive branch. Need more proof that the idea of "representative government" is an illusion? Since 9/11:

* US citizens have been detained for years without formal charges or trial.
* The president's "signing statements" have neutered bills passed by Congress - expanding presidential authority through a "unitary executive" doctrine.
* Bush has declared that he, as "commander in chief," can ignore the Geneva Conventions and laws such as the McCain amendment prohibiting torture.
* The Justice Department has concluded that there are "no limits" to the president's war-making authority.
* News of secret prisons and secret laws have come to the fore.
* The Pentagon has spied on groups that disagree with Mr. Bush's policies, including dangerous militants such as the Quakers.
* The F.B.I. has spied on the Catholic Worker's Group, Greenpeace and PETA.
* The Bush administration has ordered the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without oversight -- and did so even before Sept. 11.

Before his death in 1989, All the King's Men author Robert Penn Warren predicted that the day might come when an America president would possess too much power. "Well, it'll probably be someone you least expect under circumstances nobody foresaw," he said. "And, of course, it'll come with a standing ovation from Congress."

8. President Bush Planned to Go to War with Iraq before 9/11

"A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001. The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a 'global Pax Americana' was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC)"
-- The Sunday Herald, Sept. 15, 2002

"Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography. 'He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,' said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. 'It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.'. . "
-- Russ Baker, GNN, Oct. 28, 2004

In 2001, the Onion ran a satirical inauguration speech, wherein Bush promised to run up the deficit, tear down the wall between church and state, and "engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years." Truth is often stranger than satire, however, and it was later discovered that well before Bush's selection as president, plans for war in Iraq had been drawn up and were waiting in the wings. "For nearly a decade a group of people exiled from power during the Clinton years had been making plans," Ed Vulliamy wrote, referring to the cast of characters tied to the Project for a New American Century, whose memos and documents signaled a hunger for battle and foretold a future of wars on multiple fronts. (And possibly even a reinstatement of the draft.)

Yes, long before George Bush vowed to uphold the Constitution, plans were in the works -- going back to the last Gulf War, when the realists in George H.W. Bush's administration felt that unseating Saddam would bog the U.S down in an un-winnable guerilla war, and the neoconservatives disagreed to the point of obsession.

This turmoil was evident in 1992, when the radical Wolfowitz Doctrine, which called for a "go-it-alone" military strategy and a policy of preemption, was leaked to the press. And by 1998, right about the time George H.W. Bush was explaining why his administration did not remove Hussein from power, Paul Wolfowitz was testing the "cakewalk theory" before Congress, shilling for the Iraqi Liberation Act and promising that the U.S would not need to send major ground forces into Iraq to do the job.

How did George W. Bush, who promised to a "humble" foreign policy during the 2000 campaign get mixed up in this? Mickey Herskowitz, Bush's ghost writer on A Charge To Keep, says that Governor Bush began talking about invading Iraq in 1999, in part, he believes, due to a Reagan-era credo ascribed to Dick Cheney: "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade."

"'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it," Bush told Herskowitz in one of two taped interviews. "If I have a chance to invade . . if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

PBS' highly informative War Behind Closed Doors also examined how Bush's ideas might have taken root:

EVAN THOMAS, Asst. Managing Editor, "Newsweek": When George Bush was running for president, he essentially went to school. And various great and worthy men trooped down to Austin to teach George Bush about the world. And by and large, they told him that Iraq was unfinished, basically, but they had to be a little careful about it because, of course, George Bush's father was the one who hadn't finished the business. And if George W. Bush was elected president, he may end up having to do what his father didn't do or couldn't do, and that is killing off Saddam Hussein.

NARRATOR: In Bush, Wolfowitz saw a chance to get his ideas about a tougher American stance in the world implemented. But W, as he was known, was also being advised by Colin Powell. And during the campaign, neither side really knew where they stood with the candidate.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, V.P. Chief of Staff '89-'92: I wouldn't say that if you read Wolfowitz's defense policy guidance from 1992 and read most of Bush's campaign speeches and his statements in the debates, you would say, "Hey, Bush has really adopted Wolfowitz's world view."

Before the war began, Scowcroft penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Don't Attack Saddam" and both Herskowitz and author James Risen have chronicled ways George H. W. Bush counseled his son not to invade Iraq (Risen says at one point, George W. "angrily hung up the phone" during one of these conversations.). And, of course, who can forget Bob Woodward's revelation that Bush relied on "a higher father" instead of taking his earthly father's advice?

But regardless how many times administration officials say "Sept. 11 changed everything," the war in Iraq was a foregone conclusion long before Mohamed Atta became a household name. "From the very beginning there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told 60 Minutes in Jan. 2004, adding that the plans to invade Iraq began days after Bush's inauguration. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'"

And the rest, as they say, is history.

7. The Bush Administration Conspired with Britain and Used Deliberate Deception to Make its Case for War with Iraq

"Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see those words in black and white...and beneath a SECRET stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, were ordered by their countries' leaders to "fix facts" to "justify" an unprovoked war on Iraq. More often than not, we have been greeted with stares of incredulity. It has been a hard learning...that folks tend to believe what they want to believe. . . Thanks to an unauthorized disclosure by a courageous whistleblower, the evidence now leaps from official documents...this time authentic, not forged. . . "
-- Veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern, referring to the July 2002 Downing Street Memo, TomPaine.com, May 4, 2005

"The president of the United States caught conspiring to create a modern-day version of the sinking of the Maine? Talk about an impeachable offense."
-- David Corn, referring to a Jan. 2003 memo of a conversation between George Bush and Tony Blair, the Huffington Post, Feb. 2, 2006

In March, 2002, a full year before the start of the war in Iraq, former U.N. official Denis Halliday told Salon that "Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the U.S." and that "the whole weapons inspection issue is really just a ruse," echoing the sentiments Colin Powell had expressed earlier in Cairo, when he said that Hussein had "not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" and was "unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

Six months later, members of the intelligence community began speaking out against "cooked information" and false intelligence "from various Iraqi exiles" -- assertions which were soon backed by revelations about Ahmed Chalabi's "faulty intelligence," and the U.S. government's willingness to believe a less-than-credible agent named Curveball. "Keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and that the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about," a CIA official wrote in Feb. 2003, one day before Colin Powell made his regrettable presentation before the UN.

And while the Office of Special Plans (otherwise known as "the Lie Factory") generated damning evidence all by itself, the true smoking guns were found in memos uncovered by the British press. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," the Downing Street memo read, confirming what many suspected -- that Bush wanted war and would lie to get it. (When Rep Jim McDermott said as much in Sept. 2002, the Weekly Standard and right wing hacks went on the warpath).

A subsequent memo, written in Jan. 2003, indicates that not only was Bush trying to "fix" the facts around the policy, but was willing to create another Gulf of Tonkin type crisis in the skies over Baghdad. "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach," Bush reportedly told Tony Blair, indicating that he hoped to deceive Saddam in order to provoke an attack, even as he was pressing for a second UN resolution authorizing war.

Other evidence supporting this "conspiracy theory" include revelations that:

* The President made a list of false claims including the assertion that "Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases." Declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document later proved that the Bush administration knew this information was less than credible.
* Ten days after 9/11, during a highly classified briefing, President Bush was told that there was no credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the terror attacks. The State Department also pinpointed countries where al-Qaeda was known to operate, and Iraq was not listed among them. Even so, the president often uttered "Iraq" and "Sept. 11" in the same breath, a ploy that would best resonate with traumatized Americans.
* Joseph Wilson's wrote his op-ed "What I Didn't Find in Africa," refuting the infamous "16 words" in the President's State of the Union speech, proving that faulty information made its way into high pronouncements. (Bush also repeated the aluminum tubes lie, which had also been discounted). The Bush administration countered by "outing" Wilson's CIA agent wife.
* The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded that the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's weapons programs and former senior US weapons inspector David Kay said that major stockpiles of WMD probably didn't exist in Iraq.
* Former US Congressman and eventual Sept. 11 co-chair Lee Hamilton told the Christian Science Monitor that he feared the Bush administration was twisting the facts. "My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence that you get is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the intelligence," he said in 2002. In 2005, when the Downing Street memo was leaked to the press, Hamilton was proven prescient.

Thanks to lies and innuendo, by the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 70% of Americans thought that Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 attacks. Yet Dick Cheney, our beleaguered vice president, still contends that accusations that the Bush administration misled the public are "dishonest," "reprehensible" and "not legitimate".

6. President Bush Knew 9/11 Was Going to Happen

"George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, US government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined 'Bin Laden determined to strike in the US', the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to 'bring the fight to America'. . ."
-- The Guardian, May 19, 2002

"By the time a CIA briefer gave President Bush the Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief headlined 'Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US,' the president had seen a stream of alarming reports on al Qaeda's intentions. . . In April and May 2001, for example, the intelligence community headlined some of those reports 'Bin Laden planning multiple operations,' 'Bin Laden network's plans advancing' and 'Bin Laden threats are real.'"
-- The Washington Post, April 13, 2004

Did Bush know Al Qeada was going to attack the U.S.? Yes. Of course he did. If this sounds "out there" to you, I have a bridge to sell you in Stepford. The fact is, Bush either knew an attack was coming, or has the reading comprehension of a 2-year-old. In April and May, 2001, President Bush received a string of reports regarding bin Laden's plans, while in July, a CIA intelligence report for President Bush read, "The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests."

That same month, when Bush attended the G -8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, the security measures were extreme -- considering the reports that Osama bin Laden might try to assassinate him -- possibly by flying a plane filled with explosives into a building. And on Aug 6, 2001, the President received a briefing entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the US."

These are but a handful of the reports pointing to foreknowledge:

* "President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday." -- ("Bush Was Warned of Possible Attack in U.S., Official Says," The New York Times, April 10, 2004)
* "Even though Bush has refused to make parts of the 9-11 report public, one thing is startlingly clear: The U.S. government had received repeated warnings of impending attacks -- and attacks using planes directed at New York and Washington -- for several years. The government never told us about what it knew was coming." -- James Ridgeway, ("Bush's 9-11 Secrets: The Government Received Warnings of Bin Laden's Plans to Attack New York and D.C.," The Village Voice, July 31, 2003)
* "It seems very probable that those in the White House knew much more than they have admitted, and they are covering up their failure to take action. . . After pulling together the information in the 9/11 Report, it is understandable why Bush is stonewalling. It is not very difficult to deduce what the president knew, and when he knew it. And the portrait that results is devastating." -- John Dean, ("The 9/11 Report Raises More Serious Questions about the White House Statements On Intelligence," Findlaw.com July, 29, 2003)
* "President Bush and his top advisers were informed by the CIA early last August that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden had discussed the possibility of hijacking airplanes." ("Bush was Told of Hijacking Dangers," The Washington Post, May 16, 2002)
* "U.S. Had a Steady Stream of Pre-9/11 Warnings." -- (PBS, Sept. 18, 2002)
* "I saw papers that show US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with airplanes'" -- FBI Whistleblower Seibel Edmonds, ('I saw papers that show US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with airplanes": Whistleblower the White House wants to silence speaks to The Independent," The Independent, April 2, 2004)

Other headlines read: ''Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes," (The New York Times, May 15, 2002); "Panel Says Bush Saw Repeated Warnings: Reports Preceded August 2001 Memo," (The Washington Post, April 13, 2004); and "Bush Knew of Terrorist Plot to Hijack US Planes," (the Guardian, May 19, 2002). And in case you think the "liberal media" is the lone voice saying "they knew" prominent Republican members of the Senate Committee investigating Sept. 11 and the Sept. 11 Commission have made similar observations. "I don't believe any longer that it's a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable blueprint, and we want to know why they didn't act on it," Senator Arlen Specter said.

While it's clear "Bush knew," nobody really knows "why they didn't act on it." Was it laziness? Incompetence? Or something worse? Former British MP Michael Meacher has questioned if "US air security operations" might have "deliberately stood down on September 11" while Gore Vidal wondered if the "Bush junta" intentionally ignored 9/11 warnings to advance its preset agenda. Citing PNAC's observation that a "New Pearl Harbor" would be needed to enact the muscular foreign policy they foresaw and the fact that Bush's National Security Strategy, did, in fact, read like a PNAC wish list, advocates of this "let it happen on purpose" theory also cite Paul O'Neill's assertion that President Bush was looking for a reason to invade Iraq just days after his inauguration.

Others have also pointed to the Operation Northwoods to substantiate their claims. "The Operation Northwoods plan shows the Pentagon was capable, according to [James] Bamford, "of launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting a (war on Cuba)," a Canadian TV show argued. "Can we be sure, therefore, that complicity by the Pentagon in the events of Sept. 11th is entirely out of the question?"

Conspiracy theorists have also wondered about John Ashcroft's "security concerns," Mayor Willie Brown's pre-9/11 warning, and Pentagon staffers' Sept. 11 flight cancellations. Throw in obvious propaganda, "problematic" explanations, class action lawsuits and the fact that George W. Bush just sat in that Florida classroom for minutes and you've added hefty speculation to the fire.

Yes, there is proof "Bush knew." But as for letting it 9/11 happen on purpose? As Robert Steinbeck recently pointed out in the Miami Herald, it will be years before documents concerning JFK's assassination are made public, and even longer before the Warren Commission's files are finally released. Why should anyone expect unanswered 9/11 questions to be answered any time soon?

Steinbeck nevertheless points to a group of PhDs who call themselves "Scholars for 9/11 Truth" who are currently asking the "hard questions" many prefer to avoid. Even so, admitting that there are inconsistencies within the official story is a far cry from accusing the U.S. government of complicity in the attacks. Suffice it to say that some questions may never be answered and some suspicions will never be laid to rest.

Visit us tomorrow for Part 2

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