Wednesday, February 08, 2006

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

by Maureen Farrell

[ Part 1 ] (In case you missed it)

5. The Bush Administration Manipulated the Media to Disseminate Propaganda

"Much of the problem is the media itself, which serves as a disinformation agency for the Bush administration. Fox 'News' and right-wing talk radio are the worst, but with propagandistic outlets setting the standard for truth and patriotism, all of the media is affected to some degree. "
-- Former Wall Street Journal and National Review assistant editor Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 30, 2006

"There is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. You never even get that idea floated in the mainstream media. If you bring it up, they hate the messenger."
-- Janeane Garofalo, the Washington Post, Jan.27, 2003 (two months before the war in Iraq began)

Given that the Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration violated the law by engaging in "covert propaganda" within the U.S., the notion that the Bush White House manipulated the media is not even a conspiracy theory any more -- it's a conspiracy fact. In case you were out of the loop, the story went something like this: The Bush administration produced phony stories hyping everything from Medicare to federal student loan programs, which ran on American TV disguised as "news." It then turned around and paid columnist and frequent TV talk show guest Armstrong Williams $241,000 to promote its No Child Left Behind legislation. "This happens all the time," Armstrong told the Nation's David Corn, adding that "there are others."
Though columnists Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus were also on the White House payroll, speculation regarding "the others" ran rampant following one news conference, when Jeff Gannon, of Talon News and GOPUSA, asked President Bush how he could deal with Senate Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." Bloggers immediately smelled a rat and within a month, the mainstream media also began to question how Gannon, a gay escort, was given clearance to attend White House briefings -- even before he was a reporter. "Planting or even just sanctioning a political operative in the WH press room is a dangerous precedent," CBS reported, pointing to Karl Rove, the one who seemed to have Gannon's egg on his face.

To be fair, there is a time-honored tradition of government and media war-time collaboration. Whether reporting on the Maine or the Lusitania or the USS Maddox, the press has historically done what was needed to help the war effort. During the first Gulf War, Americans were treated to Propaganda Plus, when a PR firm was hired to sell the war to both the Senate and the public.

The PR campaign, we later learned, actually continued throughout the 1990s, with the government covertly working to sell regime change in Iraq. The Weekly Standard did its part, devoting an entire special edition devoted to taking out Saddam in 1995. As Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post revealed in Jan. 2003, "the Dec. 1 issue of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, headlined its cover with a bold directive: Saddam Must Go: A How-to Guide. Two of the articles were written by current administration officials, including the lead one, by Zalmay M. Khalilzad, now special White House envoy to the Iraqi opposition, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary."

By the time Andrew Card explained why the Bush administration waited until Sept. 2002 to "market" the impending war in Iraq, American TV complied, coming up with powerful soundtracks and visuals that read "Showdown With Saddam" and "Countdown to Iraq" while making it appear as if an actual debate were taking place. When Phil Donahue tried to present the "other side," however, his show was cancelled, despite having MSNBC's highest primetime ratings. His crime? According to a study commissioned by NBC, Donahue seemed "to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives" as the competition was "waving the flag at every opportunity."

Other networks also felt the pinch, with CNN's Christine Amanpour saying that intimidation "by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News" led to "a climate of fear and self-censorship" and the unquestioning propagation of "disinformation." Those who raised questions were often smeared or worse, as Scott Ritter and Valerie Plame would later learn. "As soon as I came out against Bush, that's when my rights to free speech were taken away. It had nothing to do with indecency," Howard Stern said on his radio broadcast on March 19, 2004. "I have two sources inside the FCC. They know exactly what is going on. They had a meeting two weeks ago, freaking out. I seem to be making enough noise that people are realizing we could hurt George W. Bush in the elections. So they are trying to figure out at what point do they fine me."

Media manipulation goes way back, of course, but since the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, which paved the way for Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, propaganda has dominated the airways, making true democracy all but impossible. "The whole idea that we can govern ourselves and have an intelligent debate, free of cant, free of disinformation, I think it's dead." author John MacArthur said, with the "swiftboating of John Murtha" recently proving his point.

The culprit is not just the conservative media, however, as The New York Times was especially helpful during the push for war. Judith Miller, in particular, came under fire. See if you can connect the dots:

* In 2000, a memo from a former colleague described New York Times reporter Miller as "an advocate," whose work "is little more than dictation from government sources . . . filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies." James Bamford later asserted that Miller "had been a trusted outlet for the INC's [Iraqi National Congress'] anti-Saddam propaganda for years."
* A story by Miller, containing disinformation indicating that Saddam Hussein sought high-strength aluminum tubes to develop a nuclear bomb, ran on the front page of the New York Times. Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice took to the Sunday morning talk shows, repeating Miller's assertions -- with Rice telling CNN, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
* Miller went to jail for refusing to name her source in the Plamegate investigation, (Scooter Libby) where she was visited by John Bolton, whose nomination for UN ambassador had been called into question by "claims that he tried to manipulate US intelligence to support his hawkish views." Libby, who was later indicted in the Plame case, wrote her this cryptic letter: "You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers. With admiration, Scooter Libby."
Was Miller duped? Was she a pawn? Was she one of those CIA moles Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein warned of? Who knows? Regardless what drove Miller's reporting, one thing is clear: The New York Times has been a conduit for disinformation in the past and it was invaluable in helping this administration sell the war in Iraq. The "liberal media" strikes again.

4. G.W. Bush Conspired with Others to Steal the 2000 and 2004 Elections.

"There was one exact moment, in fact, when I knew for sure that Al Gore would Never be President of the United States, no matter what the experts were saying -- and that was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore winning Florida. It was Nonsense, said the Candidate, Utter nonsense. . Anybody who believed Bush had lost Florida was a Fool. The Media, all of them, were Liars & Dunces or treacherous whores trying to sabotage his victory . . Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV. The old man was the real tip-off. The leer on his face was almost frightening. It was like looking into the eyes of a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth. The sheep's fate was sealed, and so was Al Gore's."
-- Hunter S. Thompson, ESPN, Nov. 27, 2000

"[The Bush Family's] sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution."
-- Former GOP strategist Kevin Phillips, BuzzFlash, Jan. 7. 2004

While some believe a coup began on Sept. 11, others will tell you it began with the 2000 election. Even though George Bush's first cousin declared him the winner and his brother Jeb assured him he'd won Florida, many Americans remained unconvinced.

First there was the surreal sight of the Bush family on national TV, as staged and phony as Susan Smith's tearful plea to return her "kidnapped" children. Then came the well-groomed thugs, sent on Enron and Halliburton planes to stop the Florida recount. But it wasn't just James Baker's ploys or the Supreme Court's ruling that signaled something was amiss -- it was the attitude of ordinary citizens who were more concerned about their "team" winning than about democracy itself.

Unless you rely solely on FOX news (the modern equivalent to "living under a rock"), the shenanigans that occurred in pre-election Florida are now old news, and have been dissected at length in documentaries, magazines and to some degree, in the mainstream press. A St . Petersburg Times op-ed later deemed the election "stolen," the Associated Press reported that Florida had "quietly" admitted "election fraud," and Vanity Fair devoted a sizable portion of its Oct. 2004 issue to exactly how Team Bush pulled it off. By the time CNN sued the state of Florida for its ineligible voters list in 2004, the underbelly of the beast was plainly visible.

But in Nov. 2001, when Greg Palast uncovered then Secretary of State Katherine Harris' role in the shameful voter roll purge in Florida, the news was explosive. The New York Times -- the paper that would later print front page disinformation to sell the war in Iraq -- took a pass, however, until three years later, when it was too late to do anything about it.

At first, election irregularities were featured as anomalies, like when the Washington Post covered computer glitches that literally subtracted thousands of votes from Al Gore and gave them to a Socialist candidate. By the time similar problems were reported during the 2002 midterm and 2004 primary elections, people were understandably skittish, with e-voting failures having "shaken confidence in the technology installed at thousands of precincts" -- with as many as 20 states introducing legislation calling for paper receipts on voting machines.

In early 2004, Mother Jones predicted that "Ohio could become as decisive this year as Florida was four years ago" and sure enough, Americans awoke the day after the election without a decisive winner. And though John Kerry later conceded, questions have since been raised by computer programmers, mathematicians, journalists and others. "Was the election of 2004 stolen?" columnist Robert Koehler asked, before addressing the many "numbers-savvy scientists are saying that the numbers don't make sense."

There were warnings before the election, of course, with red flags being raised by researchers at prestigious Stanford and John Hopkins Universities. But despite Diebold's CEO's promise to deliver Ohio's electoral votes to George W. Bush, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's prominent role in the Bush/Cheney campaign, and the suspicious election night lock-down in Warren County, Ohio, many still believed election angst could be attributed to a super-sized case of "sour grapes."

When Christopher Hitchens, who is admittedly not a Kerry fan, also weighed in, however, that excuse flew out the window. "Whichever way you shake it, or hold it to the light, there is something about the Ohio election that refuses to add up. . . ," he wrote.

Rep. John Conyers and the Government Accountability Office also found widespread irregularities, and when statisticians picked apart the election results, Bush was not the legitimate winner. Pollster John Zogby compared the 2004 election to 1960's suspicious contest, and University of Pennsylvania professor Steven F. Freeman put the odds that exit polls were that wrong, in that many states, at 250 million to one.

The evidence was so compelling, in fact, that NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller took it upon himself to tackle the proverbial suggestion "somebody should write a book." His extensively-researched yet largely ignored Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them) shines a crucial light on the "stealthy combination of computerized vote theft, bureaucratic monkey business, systematic shortages of viable equipment and old-fashioned dirty tricks. . . " that led to democracy's last debacle, and will most likely lead to the next.

Ohio's 2005 election also failed the smell test, and by late Jan. 2006, the Washington Post looked into allegations of election tampering -- without the dismissive, lazy reporting usually afforded the subject. Describing tests conducted by Florida's Leon County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho, using "relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques," the paper quickly uncovered how easy it is to steal an election. "Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?" election officials asked test participants, and though two marked their ballots "yes" and six said "no," by the time they went through Diebold's optical scan machine, the results read seven "yes" votes and one "no."

"More troubling than the test itself was the manner in which Diebold simply failed to respond to my concerns or the concerns of citizens who believe in American elections," Sancho said. "I really think they're not engaged in this discussion of how to make elections safer."

Hmmm. You don't say.

There is a reason, you see, that "None Dare Call It Stolen," and that reasons extends beyond the preponderance of evidence. "If electronic voting machines programmed by private Republican firms remain in our future, dissent will become pointless unless it boils over into revolution," former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts wrote. "Power-mad Republicans need to consider the result when democracy loses its legitimacy and only the rich have anything to lose."

James Madison predicted a similar scenario. "The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility," he reportedly told the New York Post. "It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few."

Those would be the "one percenters." And chances are, you aren't one of them.

3. Candidate G. W. Bush Promised to Tear Down the Wall Between Church and State.

"Whatever else it achieves, the presidential campaign of 2000 will be remembered as the time in American politics when the wall separating church and state began to collapse."
-- The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 30, 2000

"Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers, said that we should build a wall between the church and state. That wall is being deliberately and ostentatiously, not secretly, broken down. . . "
-- President Jimmy Carter, the Daily Show, Dec. 5, 2005

Remember Bill Clinton's impeachment? Back when the rule of law mattered? Some say that the drive for impeachment did not begin with Monica Lewinski, but the Religious Rights' long held desire to takeover American politics. ("I'm for evangelicals running for public office and winning if possible and getting control of the Congress, getting control of the bureaucracy, getting control of the executive branch of government," the Rev. Billy Graham told viewers of the 700 Club in 1985).

According to Rolling Stone, the idea to impeach Clinton reportedly took root during a meeting of the Center for National Policy (CNP) in June 1997, and by 1998, disgraced House majority leader Tom DeLay -- who earned a 100% approval rating by the Christian Coalition -- provided fundamentalists with a "direct lobbying line to the U.S. Congress."

Some Senators were also on board and, with Supreme Court vacancies waiting in the wings, the Religious Right needed an executive partner.

Enter George W. Bush.

The crowning moment for America's fundamentalists reportedly came in 1999-- when candidate Bush made his "king-making speech" before CNP, wherein he was rumored to have promised to take a "tough stance against gays and lesbians" and appoint Religious Right-approved candidates to the Supreme Court. The Democratic National Committee requested a copy of the speech, but was denied, while ABC News and other organizations started asking questions, declaring CNP, which has included John Ashcroft, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell among its influential members, as the "most powerful group you never heard of."

While Bush's trip to Bob Jones University made headlines, he also made a scantly noticed pilgrimage to meet with about two dozen fundamentalist leaders who called themselves the Committee to Restore American Values, which was headed by Left Behind series co-author and CNP founder Rev. Timothy LaHaye, who Rolling Stone reported, "played a quiet but pivotal role in putting George W. Bush in the White House."

How valid is this theory? The National Council of Churches, which represents America's mainstream Protestant churches, has said that Bush is the first President since George Washington to snub traditional churches while giving unparallel access to evangelicals.

Walter Cronkite and Jimmy Carter have both expressed dismay over what Carter calls the "increasing merger in this country of fundamentalism on the religious side [and] fundamentalism on the political side." And in the aftermath of the 2000 election:

* ABC News openly speculated that Christian conservatives were responsible for Bush's presidential nomination.
* The Washington Post described Bush as the first U.S. President to double as the Religious Right's "de facto leader."
* The Guardian reported that U.S. fundamentalists are "at the heart of power."
* The Village Voice reported that the Bush White House consults with apocalyptic Christians to make sure that U.S. foreign policy conforms to End Times prophecies.
* Karl Rove consulted James Dobson (the man "Focus on the Family" co-founder Gil Alexander-Moegerle called "a tremendous threat to the separation of church state") regarding President Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.
* The Marriage Protection Act passed in the House, using an untested provision that further weakens the wobbly wall between church and state.
* The Constitutional Restoration Act of 2004, which states that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over "any matter" regarding public officials who acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government" was reintroduced in 2005.

In Sept. 1960, Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy eased concerns that his Catholicism would interfere with his presidency. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him," he said.

During the 2004, election, however, the GOP was caught dipping its pen into God's inkwell when the Bush campaign asked user-friendly congregations to hand over their church directories. And while one pastor even told parishioners to "vote for Bush" or leave, the IRS targeted one liberal church for giving an antiwar sermon.

While the Abramoff scandal has underscored ways the GOP has manipulated the folks Lee Atwater once referred to as "extra chromosome conservatives," concerns over "apocalyptic politics" cannot be overlooked. Today, one third of all Americans believe that Israel will soon be destroyed to make way for the second coming of Christ, sharing the same theology as the Islamofascists America's democratic quest is supposedly disarming. "And as far as the imminent apocalypse is concerned, [America's fundamentalists are] on the same page as the Mullahs in Tehran," conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan pointed out. "Just in case you were sleeping soundly at night."

2. George Bush is a Front Man for the Military Industrial Complex.

"In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about how 'we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.' That complex's recent mega-leap to power came under George H.W. Bush and even more under George W. Bush ... with the post-9/11 expansion of the military and creation of the Department of Homeland Security. But armaments and arms deals seem to have been in the Bushes' blood for nearly a century."
-- Former GOP strategist Kevin Phillips, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 2004

"The book [the Iron Triangle] opens up with a mention of Dwight Eisenhower's farewell speech, in which he warned the country against the formation of this military-industrial complex. And I think that that is exactly what we're seeing today. We're seeing a very tight-knit group of companies and private military contractors that are virtually indistinguishable from various administrations and the political infrastructure of Washington, D.C. -- so much so that it's not clear whose interests we're acting on when we go to war. "
-- Dan Briody, BuzzFlash, June, 23, 2003

When Why We Fight documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki recently appeared on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart asked him if President Bush will be as candid as Dwight D. Eisenhower when he leaves office. "Do you see, perhaps, President Bush doing the same? Maybe coming out and say 'Beware of me. And my friends?'" Stewart asked, referring to Ike's famous and prescient parting warning against the "military industrial complex" and threats to our democracy.

Stewart was only half joking.

Eisenhower's daughter Susan later revealed that her father's insight evolved during his service as Supreme Allied commander during WWII -- when he realized that the arms race not about national defense or protection, but instilling a permanent, highly profitable national security state. (Ike's children also confessed that the "military-industrial complex" was originally called the "military-industrial-congressional complex," for reasons all too obvious).

Even before Eisenhower spoke out, Vice President Henry A. Wallace issued a similar warning against WWII war profiteers who were "clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war" and hoped "to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends." Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, was one such individual, forging a relationship with the Nazis that continued until 1951.

Kevin Phillips, a former GOP strategist, has written in length about how the Bush family was "present at the emergence of what became the U.S. military-industrial complex," modernizing Ike's warning with one of his own. "Between now and the November election, it's crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president's family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links," he wrote in 2004.

Since the Sept. 11, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Herald, the Guardian and a host of others have connected the dots between Bush administration cronies and the windfalls of war. But the most stunning accusation came from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Pointing to the "extremely powerful" influence of the "Oval Office Cabal" of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he flat-out dubbed them "member[s] of what Dwight Eisenhower [called] the military industrial complex" and warned that they have "a concentration of power that is just unparalleled." And though Halliburton's subsidiary Brown and Root was part of the military-industrial complex back when Lyndon Johnson was the company's main man in Washington, when it comes to "entanglement and money-hunting in the Middle East," Phillip reminds us that "No previous presidency has had anything remotely similar. Not one."

How bad is it? "The complex is so pervasive, it's become invisible," says Sen. John McCain, and all anyone need do is research FDR and Harry Truman's attitudes towards war profiteering compared to those of today's "public servants" -- and the "revolving door" between the Defense Department and defense contractors looks especially crusty. Or better yet, go back and read some of Eisenhower's speeches, juxtaposed against our present reality. For a stunning sense of how entrenched the military industrial complex has become, consider this snippet from a speech Ike delivered in 1953:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Eisenhower sounds like socialist compared to today's compromised Republicans and Democrats, doesn't he?

1. Bringing Osama bin Laden "to Justice" Was Never the Objective of the War on Terror.

"The White House has always seemed less compelled to capture Osama than to use him as a pretext for invading Iraq and as a political selling point. Karl Rove, coming out of his 'please don't indict me' crouch, tried to chase away the taint of the Abramoff scandal with a new round of terror-mongering for 2006: 'We need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of this moment. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many Democrats.'"
-- Maureen Dowd, the New York Times, Jan. 21, 2006

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not
that important. It's not our priority."
-- President George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

Remember after Sept. 11? When President Bush promised to catch Osama bin Laden "dead or alive?" Or how about when he promised that Osama and his cohorts could run, but that they could not hide? Oh, sure, we've captured and "killed" Osama's head honchos a few times now (just how many lives does Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have anyway?) But it seems that reports of their deaths have often been greatly exaggerated.

With the catalogue of fibs we've been told, it is no wonder that conspiracy theories thrive. Soon after the War on Terror began, buzz about bin Laden began. It went something like this:

1. Catching Osama was not really the goal in Afghanistan, but building a pipeline to the rich oil reserves in the Caspian Sea basin was.

Though Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, Dick Cheney and Enron have all been mentioned in conjunction with this theory, the meat of the matter lies in three easily-connected dots. Beginning with a Taliban delegation's trip to Texas to meet with Unocal officials to discuss a pipeline through Afghanistan, through a Unocal official's testimony before Congress, (in which he says Unocal's plans cannot go forward until a recognized government is in place in Afghanistan), this conspiracy theory concludes with president of Afghanistan and former Unocal employee Hamid Karzai's signature on such a deal. Taking a cue from Donald Rumsfeld, who said in Oct. 2001 that he doubted the U.S. would catch Osama, people who buy into this theory could have predicted early on that bin Laden would fall through the cracks in Tora Bora.

2. Catching Osama was not really the goal, but selling the pre-planned war in Iraq was.

George Bush repeatedly insinuated a link between Iraq and 9/11 -- despite the fact that ten days after 9/11, he was told there was no connection between the two. "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," he said, adding that his administration never said that Saddam was responsible for Sept. 11. Through innuendo and spin, however, he and his administration made their case for war, and by the time Operation Iraqi Freedom began, 70% of all Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was tied to the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush's assertion that his "last choice" was "the use of military power" also flew in the face of everything the Downing Street memo and subsequent evidence would later prove.

3. Catching Osama was not really the goal, but keeping Americans in a perpetual state of fear was.

Ever since John Ashcroft brought us the "Jose Padilla and the Dirty Bomb Show,"
the suspicious timing of bin Laden tapes and color-coded terror alerts have not gone unnoticed.

This is not to diminish to the terrorist threat. Most experts believe another terror attack is likely. And it's important to remember that al-Qeada has a habit of striking at five year intervals. And ironically, thanks to Operation Iraqi Freedom, equipment that could be used to make a nuclear bomb may have ended up in some very wrong hands.

Yes, terrorism is part of our new reality. We are at war, as they say, and chances are we will get hit again. But the more urgent threat -- as truly brave Americans see it -- comes from within. After all, terrorists can't defile the Constitution or take away our freedoms. Our "leaders" are the only ones in a position to do that.

There are two ways to look at this: One, that all "conspiracy theories" are garbage and the concerns outlined here are unsubstantiated nonsense. Or that the phrase "conspiracy theory" is often used to diffuse hidden truths. (Well-trained citizens scoff at the idea that anyone ever conspires to do anything, even though the US government charges people with "conspiracy" all the time.)

If all is fine and well, editorial boards across the country have simply lost their minds, and the country will "go back to normal" in time. More, likely, however, is that many US citizens will remain blind to assaults on our Constitution and democratic principles, which will become as illusive as Osama bin Laden and the Iraqis who were going to greet us as liberators.

The most pressing question, it seems, is not whether or not we'll be attacked again or who will win the next election. After all, if historian Chalmers Johnson is correct, a Democrat isn't going to save us from the "entrenched interests of the military industrial complex" either.

The question is actually an old one, first posed by a certain Mrs. Powel, at the close of the Constitutional Convention. "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" she asked Benjamin Franklin, who famously answered, "A republic if you can keep it."

The grand experiment is over, it seems, and it's time to lay the Republic to rest. "After a 230-year run, the 'unalienable rights' -- as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Founding Fathers -- are history," Robert Parry recently wrote.

All of this must sound remarkably "conspiratorial" to a nation distracted by Scott Peterson, Natalee Holloway and America's Next Top Model. Which brings us to the final, saddest, question of all: When all said is and done, will we even realize we lost our country to try to save our own skins?

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