July 17, 2003

Big Lies

The AIM newsletter started this trip down memory lane. Miquel Rodriguez, the U.S. Attorney who was the lead investigator in the probe into the death of Vince Foster, goes public with an interview , in which he discusses several key aspects of the Foster case and of the investigation.

You may recall that Rodriguez resigned from the Ken Starr-led project when it became apparent that the results of said "investigation" had been predetermined as a finding of suicide, and that no valid process would be allowed to take place. He covers a variety of topics, from the amount of blood at the scene in Ft. Marcy Park, to the moving of the body, to the professional and personal threats he received during the investigation and after his resignation, as a result of his pursuit of the truth.

Listening to this interview, I was jarred back to the 90's, to the days when lies were spewed from the White House with the audacity of a double-dog dare, and accompanied by a freshly minted executive privilege of some sort. As the media and Bush's political opponents conjure up, and then dwell on Bush's supposed "lies" to the American people, it's instructive to look back on the Clinton administration for contrast and perspective.

That Clinton's was a presidency in which lying by a President was "normalized" and excused has been pretty well documented. We have now formally set the precedent that felony perjury and obstruction of justice by the President don't "rise to the level". As a nation, we just have to live with that, as the Clintons' legacy. But it seems to me the 90's were really about Big Lies.

The Lewinsky lies are small-time stuff, even though they got him impeached. Even Clinton's lies about his conduct as a serial sex offender; about Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, as telling as they are about the person that he is, are not the government lies that kept me awake nights in the 90's. Even the Clintons' denial of the "sale" of the 1996 campaign to the Communist Chinese government in return for defense secrets and technologies, and the subsequent cover-up, don't measure up to what I consider to be the three Big Lies of the Clinton administration. In no particular order, they are:

1) That the FBI/ATF had no prior knowledge of the plot to blow up the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

2) That the TWA 800 crash was caused by an spark from an electrical short in the center fuel tank.

3) That Vince Foster committed suicide in Ft. Marcy Park.

(A close fourth would be the claim that the Branch Davidians set their own compound on fire and incinerated 80 men, women and children. Imagine, by the way, the Waco massacre happening with Ashcroft as the Attorney General who ordered the assault. Might the spin be a bit different?)

So, call me a "conspiracy theorist". Call me a "Clinton-hater". Make cracks about tinfoil hats and grassy knolls. But none of the above claims can withstand serious scrutiny. Notice that I am not making the claim that the Clintons personally killed Foster, or even ordered his murder. I am not making the claim that Islamic terrorists shot down TWA 800. I am not claiming that Timothy McVeigh was not guilty in the OKC bombing case.

What I am saying is that the government, from the White House on down through the intelligence agencies, NTSB, the Justice Department, and the Congress, conducted deeply flawed, politicized pseudo-investigations in all three cases, and that the American people were systematically lied to as to what really happened. A compliant press went along with their Democratic soulmate in the White House, feeding the public whatever line the government saw fit to serve up. I am not suggesting either, that the government's conduct would have necessarily been different in a Republican administration, save for the "compliant press" angle. With that disclaimer, let me add a quote from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Is Bill Clinton to blame? Of course he is. Degradation spreads from the top down".

However, it seems that as a country we have now just about swallowed these particular lies, because to know the truth would be to admit some very ugly things about our government, and its capacity to exceed its mandate simply to "govern". It's much more convenient and less disturbing for most Americans to just buy the story that McVeigh and Nichols acted alone, or that the crash was an accident, or that Foster was simply "depressed".

It would be much too emotional, divisive, expensive, and "partisan" for the successor to the White House to dig for the truth and prosecute any criminality. Can't we just move on? I have heard commentators suggest that we were "scandal fatigued" during the Clinton administration, and who could deny it? We were bombarded by, and hence inured to, lies from government. We gradually became incapable of outrage, and incredulous at the sheer volume of it all.

I suppose we are fortunate that the Big Lies happened to take place during the dawn of the Internet Age. An astonishing amount of information is available for review by any interested party, on any one of the three incidents. (See links below). Much of that information was discounted at the time by Big Lie apologists simply by virtue of it being on the Internet, as if that alone made it suspect. Some of it was, no doubt, suspect. (Less than a decade later, now that CNN, ABC, and the NYT have prominent Internet presences, we get less of that out-of-hand dismissal of Internet content as somehow tainted.)

But the Internet does give us an edge toward ultimately discovering the truth. For one thing, it serves as an archive for all of the previous news, information, commentary, debate and conjecture, which is outside of government control. Second, it provides a continuing forum, independent of the major media, in which all these issues can be updated, discussed, or revisited, (for better or for worse). I can't help but think that the more "mature" Internet of the early 00's, including an active blogosphere, would have made a difference in the pursuit of truth during the years of the Big Lies.

I realize how very impolitic it is to dredge up these scandals of the past, and how some people, just by reading this far, have already written me off as a knuckle-dragging, reactionary, conspiracy kook. And I suppose that if those people want to file away as fact the official government explanations for TWA, OKC and Foster along with the one that says Oswald acted alone, then the fact that they consider me a nut bothers me little. I have consistently found that the less a person knows about the case, the more likely he is to be satisfied by the government line.

To me, the Big Lies are scarier than the sex lies or the policy lies, because they indicate that what we refer to as the "intelligence apparatus" in this country is seriously out of control. Under Janet Reno or John Ashcroft, the bureaucracy is basically the same animal. It is an organization that threatens U.S. Attorneys and intimidates Senators. It stifles and/or controls investigations. It can ignore 150 eyewitnesses to a missile taking down a jetliner. It can alter autopsy documents. It can indict credible witnesses on trumped up charges, to impugn their credibility. It can, and it does.

We have learned about the entrenched careerism rampant in our intelligence agencies, and the bureaucratic inertia that drives all investigations of those agencies and their actions into a black hole. We have come to wonder if the intelligence apparatus is accountable to the Commander in Chief, or if it is the other way around.

Whenever the subject of one of the Big Lies comes up I go back and re-read the classic column by the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, titled Goodbye, Good Riddance, which he wrote in 1997, having been reassigned from the Washington D.C. beat. If you never have, please read it all. A couple of selected excerpts: Of the OKC cover-up...

If it turns out that the bombing was a bungled sting operation by the FBI, as some of the victims are now alleging, the only fit response is to send bulldozers down Pennsylvania Avenue to flatten the Hoover Building once and for all.

A monument should be raised on the rubble of the FBI headquarters that reads Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who Shall Guard the Guards?) as a warning to free-born Americans of the next millennium.

And then, an observation and a warning...

Nothing does more to sap the life of a democracy than the abuse of power.... ....To the American people I bid a fond farewell. Guard your liberties. It is the trust of each generation to pass a free republic to the next. And if I know you right, you will rouse yourself from slumber to ensure exactly that.

Big Lie Information Links:

Vince Foster

Death of Vince Foster
Allan Favish Links
Foster Archive

OKC Bombing

OKC Info Links
Oklahoma City Bombing
OKC Links
Jayna Davis evidence (summary)
Jayna Davis evidence (detail)

TWA 800

TWA800.com
TWA 800 links
Donaldson Report

Posted by dan at July 17, 2003 11:40 AM