Recorded November 5, 2006
Introduction: Once again, Mr. Emory interviewed Robert Parry, who runs the “Consortium News” web site. The last program recorded before the 2006 election, this broadcast examines how George W. Bush has actually worked with, not against, Osama bin Laden. Beginning with analysis of a 2004 videotape released just before the presidential election, the program highlights the CIA’s contention that bin Laden’s intention in releasing the tape was to support Bush’s reelection bid!
In addition, the program sets forth intelligence that indicates that al-Qaeda doesn’t want the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, as Bush contends. Al-Qaeda is said to believe that staying in Iraq is good for its cause. Revisiting past elections, the broadcast details the media’s deliberate slanting of coverage of Al Gore’s 2000 campaign in favor of the Republicans. Concluding with discussion of the recent North Korean nuclear test, the program notes that the Moon organization (which is very close to the Bush family) gave a great deal of money to North Korea in the early 1990’s—a time at which that regime was seeking funds to further its nuclear program.
Program Highlights Include: The Washington press corps’ openly partisan behavior during a 1999 debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley; the truth concerning Gore’s alleged comments about the Internet, the Love Canal and the novel “Love Story”; review of the business relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families.
1. Beginning with analysis of the business relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families, the program reviews the involvement of the bin Laden family with Arbusto Energy, Bush’s first energy venture. For more about this connection, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 248, 310. In addition to the Bush/bin Laden/Arbusto link, Robert discussed the Bush and bin Laden family’s relationship to the Carlyle Group. For more about this, see—among other programs—FTR#347.
2. Moving from the subject of the business relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families to the topic of the political symbiosis that the two have manifested, the discussion notes that the CIA concluded that a videotape released by bin Laden on the eve of the 2004 election was released specifically to help George W. Bush! Mr. Emory noted in this context that the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades (an Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda) and al-Qaeda in Iraq released communiqués in the run-up to that election which were openly supportive of George W. Bush. “On Oct. 29, 2004, just four days before the U.S. presidential election, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden released a videotape denouncing George W. Bush. Some Bush supporters quickly spun the diatribe as ‘Osama’s endorsement of John Kerry.’ But behind the walls of the CIA, analysts had concluded the opposite: that bin-Laden was trying to help Bush gain a second term.
This stunning CIA disclosure is tucked away in a brief passage near the end of Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which draws heavily from CIA insiders. Suskind wrote that the CIA analysts based their troubling assessment on classified information, but the analysts still puzzled over exactly why bin-Laden wanted Bush to stay in office.
According to Suskind’s book, CIA analysts had spent years ‘parsing each expressed word of the al-Qaeda leader and his deputy, [Ayman] Zawahiri. What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin-Laden speaks only for strategic reasons. …
‘Their [the CIA’s] assessments, at day’s end, are a distillate of the kind of secret, internal conversations that the American public [was] not sanctioned to hear: strategic analysis. Today’s conclusion: bin-Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.
‘At the five o’clock meeting, [deputy CIA director] John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: ‘Bin-Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.’’
McLaughlin’s comment drew nods from CIA officers at the table. Jami Miscik, CIA deputy associate director for intelligence, suggested that the al-Qaeda founder may have come to Bush’s aid because bin-Laden felt threatened by the rise in Iraq of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; bin-Laden might have thought his leadership would be diminished if Bush lost the White House and their ‘eye-to-eye struggle’ ended.
But the CIA analysts also felt that bin-Laden might have recognized how Bush’s policies – including the Guantanamo prison camp, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the endless bloodshed in Iraq – were serving al-Qaeda’s strategic goals for recruiting a new generation of jihadists.
‘Certainly,’ the CIA’s Miscik said, ‘he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years,’ according to Suskind’s account of the meeting.
As their internal assessment sank in, the CIA analysts drifted into silence, troubled by the implications of their own conclusions. ‘An ocean of hard truths before them – such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin-Laden would want Bush reelected – remained untouched,’ Suskind wrote.
One immediate consequence of bin-Laden breaking nearly a year of silence to issue the videotape the weekend before the U.S. presidential election was to give the Bush campaign a much needed boost. From a virtual dead heat, Bush opened up a six-point lead, according to one poll.
The implications of this new evidence are troubling, too, for the American people as they head toward another election in November 2006 that also is viewed as a referendum on Bush’s prosecution of the ‘war on terror.’
As we have reported previously at Consortiumnews.com, a large body of evidence already existed supporting the view that the Bushes and the bin-Ladens have long operated with a symbiotic relationship that may be entirely unspoken but nevertheless has been a case of each family acting in ways that advance the interests of the other. [See ‘Osama’s Briar Patch’ or ‘Is Bush al-Qaeda’s ‘Useful Idiot?’‘]
Before al-Qaeda launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against New York and Washington, Bush was stumbling in a presidency that many Americans felt was headed nowhere. As Bush took a month-long vacation at his Texas ranch in August 2001, his big issue was a plan to restrict stem-cell research on moral grounds.
Privately, Bush’s neoconservative advisers were chafing under what they saw as the complacency of the American people unwilling to take on the mantle of global policeman as the world’s sole superpower. The neocons hoped for some ‘Pearl Harbor’ incident that would galvanize a public consensus for action against Iraq and other ‘rogue states.’
Other senior administration officials, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, dreamed of the restoration of the imperial presidency that – after Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal – had been cut down to size by Congress, the courts and the press. Only a national crisis would create a cover for a new assertion of presidential power.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda militants were facing defeat after defeat. Their brand of Islamic fundamentalism had been rejected in Muslim societies from Algeria and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Bin-Laden and his lieutenants had even been expelled from the Sudan.
Bin-Laden’s extremists had been chased to the farthest corners of the planet, in this case the caves of Afghanistan. At this critical juncture, al-Qaeda’s brain trust decided that their best hope was to strike at the United States and count on a clumsy reaction that would offend the Islamic world and rally angry young Muslims to al-Qaeda’s banner.
So, by early summer 2001, the clock ticked down to 9/11 as 19 al-Qaeda operatives positioned themselves inside the United States and prepared to attack. But U.S. intelligence analysts picked up evidence of al-Qaeda’s plans by sifting through the ‘chatter’ of electronic intercepts. The U.S. warning system was ‘blinking red.’
Over the weekend of July Fourth 2001, a well-placed U.S. intelligence source passed on a disturbing piece of information to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who later recounted the incident in an interview with Alternet.
‘The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up,’ Miller said. ‘The incident that had gotten everyone’s attention was a conversation between two members of al-Qaeda. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the [destroyer USS] Cole [which was bombed on Oct. 12, 2000].
‘And one al-Qaeda operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.’’
In the Alternet interview, published in May 2006 after Miller resigned from the Times, the reporter expressed regret that she had not been able to nail down enough details about the intercept to get the story into the newspaper.
But the significance of her recollection is that more than two months before the 9/11 attacks, the CIA knew that al-Qaeda was planning a major attack with the intent of inciting a U.S. military reaction – or in this case, an overreaction.
The CIA tried to warn Bush about the threat on Aug. 6, 2001, with the hope that presidential action could energize government agencies and head off the attack. The CIA sent analysts to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to brief him and deliver a report entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.’
Bush was not pleased by the intrusion. He glared at the CIA briefer and snapped, ‘All right, you’ve covered your ass,’ according to Suskind’s book.
Then, putting the CIA’s warning in the back of his mind and ordering no special response, Bush returned to a vacation of fishing, clearing brush and working on a speech about stem-cell research.
For its part, al-Qaeda was running a risk that the United States might strike a precise and devastating blow against the terrorist organization, eliminating it as an effective force without alienating much of the Muslim world.
If that happened, the cause of Islamic extremism could have been set back years, without eliciting much sympathy from most Muslims for a band of killers who wantonly murdered innocent civilians.
After the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda’s gamble almost failed as the CIA, backed by U.S. Special Forces, ousted bin-Laden’s Taliban allies in Afghanistan and cornered much of the al-Qaeda leadership in the mountains of Tora Bora near the Pakistani border.
But instead of using U.S. ground troops to seal the border, Bush relied on the Pakistani army, which was known to have mixed sympathies about al-Qaeda. The Pakistani army moved its blocking force belatedly into position while bin-Laden and others from his inner circle escaped.
Then, instead of staying focused on bin-Laden and his fellow fugitives, Bush moved on to other objectives. Bush shifted U.S. Special Forces away from bin-Laden and al-Qaeda and toward Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
Many U.S. terrorism experts, including White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, were shocked at this strategy, since the intelligence community didn’t believe that Hussein’s secular dictatorship had any working relationship with al-Qaeda – and had no role in the 9/11 attacks.
Nevertheless, Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, ousting Hussein from power but also unleashing mayhem across Iraqi society. Soon, the Iraq War – combined with controversies over torture and mistreatment of Muslim detainees – were serving as recruitment posters for al-Qaeda.
Under Jordanian exile Zarqawi, al-Qaeda set up terrorist cells in central Iraq, taking root amid the weeds of sectarian violence and the nation’s general anarchy. Instead of an obscure group of misfits, al-Qaeda was achieving legendary status among many Muslims as the defenders of the Islamic holy lands, battling the new ‘crusaders’ led by Bush.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the 9/11 attacks had allowed Bush to reinvent himself as the ‘war president’ who operated almost without oversight. He saw his approval ratings surge from the 50s to the 90s – and watched as the Republican Party consolidated its control of the U.S. Congress in 2002.
Though the worsening bloodshed in Iraq eroded Bush’s popularity in 2004, political adviser Karl Rove still framed the election around Bush’s aggressive moves to defend the United States and to punish American enemies.
Whereas Bush was supposedly resolute, Democrat Kerry was portrayed as weak and indecisive, a ‘flip-flopper.’ Kerry, however, scored some political points in the presidential debates by citing the debacle at Tora Bora that enabled bin-Laden to escape.
The race was considered neck-and-neck as it turned toward the final weekend of campaigning. Then, the shimmering image of Osama bin-Laden appeared on American televisions, speaking directly to the American people, mocking Bush and offering a kind of truce if U.S. forces withdrew from the Middle East.
‘He [Bush] was more interested in listening to the child’s story about the goat rather than worry about what was happening to the [twin] towers,’ bin-Laden said. ‘So, we had three times the time necessary to accomplish the events. Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.’
Though both Bush and Kerry denounced bin-Laden’s statement, right-wing pundits, bloggers and talk-show hosts portrayed it as an effort to hurt Bush and help Kerry – which understandably prompted the exact opposite reaction among many Americans. [For instance, conservative blog site, Little Green Footballs, headlined its Oct. 31, 2004, commentary as ‘Bin Laden Threatens U.S. States Not to Vote for Bush.’]
However, behind the walls of secrecy at Langley, Virginia, U.S. intelligence experts reviewed the evidence and concluded that bin-Laden had precisely the opposite intent. He was fully aware that his videotape would encourage the American people to do the opposite of what he recommended.
By demanding an American surrender, bin-Laden knew U.S. voters would instinctively want to fight. That way bin-Laden helped ensure that George W. Bush would stay in power, would continue his clumsy ‘war on terror’ – and would drive thousands of new recruits into al-Qaeda’s welcoming arms.”
(“CIA: Osama Helped Bush in 2004” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 7/4/2006.)
3. The broadcast also notes that George W. Bush’s claim that an American withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of the terrorists is at variance with intelligence intercepts of al-Qaeda communications. As Robert Parry notes, the Iraq conflict has actually worked to the benefit of the Islamists including al-Qaeda. Not only has the war served as an effective recruiting tool for the Islamists, but al-Qaeda in particular feels that a precipitous American withdrawal from Iraq could undermine that organization’s efforts in that country. “George W. Bush’s blunt assertion that a Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 elections means ‘the terrorists win and America loses’ misses the point that Osama bin Laden stands to advance his strategic goals much faster with a Republican victory.
Indeed, as U.S. intelligence analysts have come to understand, there is a symbiotic relationship between Bush’s blunderbuss ‘war on terror’ and bin Laden’s ruthless strategy of terrorist violence – one helping the other.
Last April, a National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, concluded that Bush’s Iraq War had become the ‘cause celebre’ that had helped spread Islamic extremism around the globe.
In June, U.S. intelligence also learned from an intercepted al-Qaeda communiqué that bin Laden’s terrorist band wants to keep U.S. soldiers bogged down in Iraq as the best way to maintain and expand al-Qaeda’s influence.
‘Prolonging the war is in our interest,’ wrote ‘Atiyah,’ one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants.
Atiyah’s letter and other internal al-Qaeda communications reveal that one of the group’s biggest worries has been that a prompt U.S. military withdrawal might expose how fragile al-Qaeda’s position is in Iraq and cause many young jihadists to lay down their guns and go home. [See below]
But a Republican victory in the Nov. 7 congressional elections almost certainly would end that concern. A GOP-controlled Congress would continue to give Bush a blank check, meaning the Iraq War would be prolonged and, quite possibly, expanded into other Middle East countries.
Bush would be tempted to double up on his Iraq wager by attacking Iran and Syria, two countries that U.S. officials have accused of aiding Iraqi insurgents. A number of U.S. military experts also believe that Bush would order the bombing of Iran if it doesn’t agree to curtail its nuclear research.
An expanded war would thrill Bush’s neoconservative advisers and other prominent Republicans, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have lusted publicly over the idea of fighting ‘World War III’ against radical Muslims around the globe.
But the continued war in Iraq and its regional expansion would serve bin Laden’s interests, too, by proving to many of the world’s one billion Muslims that the Saudi exile was right in his predictions of an aggressive Western assault on Islam.
As the violence worsens, Middle East moderates would be forced to choose between Washington and the Islamic extremists. Like any violent revolutionary, bin Laden knows that the greater the polarization the faster his extremist ideology can grow.
On the other hand, Bush realizes that his best chance to retain and consolidate his political power in the United States is to exploit the American people’s fear and loathing of bin Laden and portraying his rivals as al-Qaeda’s fellow-travelers.
So, in an Oct. 30 speech in Statesboro, Georgia, Bush said, ‘However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.’
The reality, however, is that Bush and bin Laden are the proverbial two sides of the same coin, both benefiting from the other’s existence and actions. Indeed, in the six years of the Bush administration, bin Laden could not have found a more perfect foil – or some might say a more useful fool – than George W. Bush.
First, in summer 2001, when al-Qaeda was an obscure band of extremists hiding out in the Afghan mountains, Bush failed to react to U.S. intelligence warnings about al-Qaeda’s plans for an impending attack.
After nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001,in the worst terrorist attack in history, Bush reacted by ordering U.S. forces to charge into the Middle East on what he called a ‘crusade’ to ‘rid the world of evil.’ Bin Laden quickly jumped on the anti-Muslim connotation of the word ‘crusade.’
Though U.S.-led forces ousted bin Laden’s Taliban allies in Afghanistan and cornered bin Laden at Tora Bora, Bush failed to close the trap, allowing bin Laden and key followers to escape. Then, before Afghanistan was brought under control, Bush diverted U.S. military forces to Iraq.
There, Bush eliminated secular dictator Saddam Hussein, one of bin Laden’s Muslim enemies, and repeated the Afghanistan mistake by celebrating ‘mission accomplished’ without devoting sufficient U.S. forces to stabilize the country.
That blunder allowed al-Qaeda elements led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to set up shop in the Iraqi heartland. Though the force never totaled more than about five percent of the anti-U.S. fighters in Iraq, it conducted dramatic attacks, especially against Shiite targets, that worsened Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife.
Meanwhile, in the United States, bin Laden’s murderous 9/11 assaults created a political climate that helped Bush establish one-party Republican dominance. Citing the ‘war on terror,’ Bush also asserted ‘plenary’ – or unlimited – presidential powers for the conflict’s duration.
In effect, Bush suspended the American concept of ‘unalienable rights,’ as promised in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Under Bush’s theory of presidential powers, gone are fundamental liberties such as the habeas corpus right to a fair trial, protection from warrantless government searches and prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.
Then, whenever Bush has found himself in political trouble, he has conjured up the frightening spirit of bin Laden to scare the American people. Other times, bin Laden has stepped forward on his own to lend a hand.
On Oct. 29, 2004, just four days before the U.S. presidential election, bin Laden took the personal risk of breaking nearly a year of silence to release a videotape denouncing Bush. Right-wing pundits immediately spun the videotape into bin Laden’s ‘endorsement’ of Democrat John Kerry. Polls registered an immediate bump of about five points for Bush.
However, inside CIA headquarters, senior intelligence analysts reached the remarkable conclusion that bin Laden’s real intent was to help Bush win a second term.
‘Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President,’ said deputy CIA director John McLaughlin in opening a meeting to review secret ‘strategic analysis’ after the videotape had dominated the day’s news, according to Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which draws heavily from CIA insiders.
Suskind wrote that CIA analysts had spent years ‘parsing each expressed word of the al-Qaeda leader and his deputy, Zawahiri. What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons. … Today’s conclusion: bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.’
Jami Miscik, CIA deputy associate director for intelligence, expressed the consensus view that bin Laden recognized how Bush’s heavy-handed policies – such as the Guantanamo prison camp, the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and the war in Iraq – were serving al-Qaeda’s strategic goals for recruiting a new generation of jihadists.
‘Certainly,’ Miscik said, ‘he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.’
As their internal assessment sank in, the CIA analysts were troubled by the implications of their own conclusions. ‘An ocean of hard truths before them – such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected – remained untouched,’ Suskind wrote.
However, Bush’s campaign backers took bin Laden’s videotape at face value, calling it proof the terrorist leader feared Bush and favored Kerry.
In a pro-Bush book entitled Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats and Confounding the Mainstream Media, right-wing journalist Bill Sammon devoted several pages to bin Laden’s videotape, portraying it as an attempt by the terrorist leader to persuade Americans to vote for Kerry.
‘Bin Laden stopped short of overtly endorsing Kerry,’ Sammon wrote, ‘but the terrorist offered a polemic against reelecting Bush.’
Sammon and other right-wing pundits didn’t weigh the obvious possibility that the crafty bin Laden might have understood that his ‘endorsement’ of Kerry would achieve the opposite effect with the American people.
Bush himself recognized this fact. ‘I thought it was going to help,’ Bush said in a post-election interview with Sammon about bin Laden’s videotape. ‘I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the President, something must be right with Bush.’
In Strategery, Sammon also quotes Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman as agreeing that bin Laden’s videotape helped Bush. ‘It reminded people of the stakes,’ Mehlman said. ‘It reinforced an issue on which Bush had a big lead over Kerry.’
But bin Laden, a student of American politics, surely understood that, too.
Bin Laden had played Brer Rabbit to America’s Brer Fox as in the old Uncle Remus fable about Brer Rabbit begging not to be thrown into the briar patch when that was exactly where he wanted to go.
By rhetorically merging the Iraq War and the ‘war on terror,’ Bush also has kept many Americans from understanding the true nature of the Iraq conflict. From 2003 to 2005, Bush presented the worsening violence in Iraq as mostly a case of al-Qaeda’s outside terrorists attacking peace-loving Iraqis.
‘We’re helping the Iraqi people build a lasting democracy that is peaceful and prosperous and an example for the broader Middle East,’ Bush said in one typical speech on Dec. 14, 2005. ‘The terrorists understand this, and this is why they have now made Iraq the central front in the war on terror.’
But this analysis blurred the varied motivations of the armed groups fighting in Iraq. The main elements of the Iraqi insurgency are Sunnis resisting the U.S. invasion of their country and the marginalization they face in a new Iraq dominated by their Shiite rivals.
Non-Iraqi jihadists, a much smaller group estimated at about 5 percent of the armed fighters, are driven by a religious fervor against what they see as an intrusion by a non-Islamic foreign power into the Muslim world.
As U.S. military officers in the field recognized – and as new intelligence has confirmed – al-Qaeda’s position in Iraq was far more fragile than Bush’s rhetoric suggested.
Indeed, an intercepted letter, purportedly from bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and dated July 9, 2005, urged Zarqawi, then al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, to take steps to prevent mass desertions among young non-Iraqi jihadists, who had come to fight the Americans, if the Americans left.
‘The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal,’ wrote Zawahiri, according to a text released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
To avert mass desertions, Zawahiri suggested that Zarqawi talk up the ‘idea’ of a ‘caliphate’ along the eastern Mediterranean. In other words, al-Qaeda was looking for a hook to keep the jihadists around if the Americans split.
A more recent letter – written on Dec. 11, 2005, by Atiyah – elaborated on al-Qaeda’s hopes for ‘prolonging’ the Iraq War.
Atiyah lectured Zarqawi on the necessity of taking the long view and building ties with elements of the Sunni-led Iraqi insurgency that had little in common with al-Qaeda except hatred of the Americans.
‘The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day,’ Atiyah wrote. ‘Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest.’ [Emphasis added.]
The ‘Atiyah letter,’ which was discovered by U.S. authorities at the time of Zarqawi’s death on June 7, 2006, and was translated by the U.S. military’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, also stressed the vulnerability of al-Qaeda’s position in Iraq.
‘Know that we, like all mujahaddin, are still weak,’ Atiyah told Zarqawi. ‘We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength or any helper or supporter.’ [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s ‘Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold.’]
What al-Qaeda leaders seemed to fear most was that a U.S. military withdrawal would contribute to a disintegration of their fragile position in Iraq, between the expected desertions of the foreign fighters and the targeting of al-Qaeda’s remaining forces by Iraqis determined to rid their country of violent outsiders.
In that sense, the longer the United States stays in Iraq, the deeper al-Qaeda can put down roots and the more it can harden its new recruits through indoctrination and training.
Just as U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq became a ‘cause celebre’ that spread Islamic radicalism around the globe, so too does it appear that an extended U.S. occupation of Iraq would help al-Qaeda achieve its goals there – and elsewhere.
So, contrary to Bush’s assertion that a Democratic congressional victory means “the terrorists win and America loses,” the opposite might be much closer to the truth – that a continuation of Bush’s strategies, left unchecked by Congress, might be the answer to bin Laden’s dreams.”
(“Al Qaeda Wants Republicans to Win” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 10/31/2006.)
4. Much of the second side of the program focuses on the media’s metamorphosis during the 2000 campaign from its role as the Fourth Estate into that of a Fifth Column for the GOP. In particular, the mainstream press abandoned all pretext of objectivity and systematically distorted statements made by Al Gore. One of the examples of deliberate, partisan distortion by the media concerns Gore’s recounting of his role in focusing attention on the issue of toxic waste disposal. The media deliberately twisted Gore’s statements into the false contention that he [Gore] claimed to have discovered the Love Canal. [The Love Canal was a toxic waste disposal site in upstate New York that caused illness among residents living in the area.] “ . . . The lopsided coverage was a sign of how far the Republicans had come in changing the national media environment in the quarter century since Watergate. Across the board—from The Washington Post to The Washington Times, from The New York Times to the New York Post, from NBC’s cable networks to the traveling campaign press corps—journalists didn’t even disguise their contempt for Gore. At one early Democratic debate, a gathering of about 300 reporters in a nearby press room hissed and hooted at Gore’s answers. . . . In December 1999, for instance, the news media generated dozens of stories about Gore’s supposed claim that he discovered the Love Canal toxic started it all,’ he was quoted as saying. This ‘gaffe’ then let pundits recycle other situations in which Gore allegedly exaggerated his role or, as some writers put it, told ‘bold-faced lies.’ But behind these examples of Gore’s ‘lies’ often was very sloppy journalism.”
(Secrecy and Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq; by Robert Parry; Copyright 2004 by Robert Parry; The Media Consortium, Inc. [SC]; ISBN 1–893517-01–2; p. 297.)
5. Parry relates the genesis of the controversy: “The Love Canal flap started when The Washington Post and The New York Times misquoted Gore on a key point and cropped out the context of another sentence to give readers a false impression of what he meant. The error was then exploited by national Republicans and amplified endlessly by the rest of the news media, even after the Post and Times grudgingly filed corrections. Almost as remarkable, though, is how the two newspapers finally agreed to run corrections. They were effectively shamed into doing so by high school students in New Hampshire who heard Gore’s original comment. The error also was cited by an Internet site called The Daily Howler, edited by a stand-up comic named Bob Somerby. The Love Canal controversy began on November 30. 1999, when Gore was speaking to a group of high school students in Concord, New Hampshire. He was exhorting the students to reject cynicism and to recognize that individual citizens can effect important changes. As an example, he cited a high school girl from Toone, Tennessee, a town that had experienced problems with toxic waste. She brought the issue to the attention of Gore’s congressional office in the late 1970’s.” (Idem.)
6. “ ‘I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing,’ Gore told the students. ‘I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. Had the first hearing on that issue, and Toone, Tennessee—that was the one that you didn’t hear of. But that was the one that started it all.’ After the congressional hearings, Gore Said, ‘we passed a major national law to clean up hazardous dumpsites. And we had new efforts to stop the practices that ended up poisoning water around the country. We’ve still got work to do. But we made a huge difference. And it all happened because one high school student got involved.’ The context of Gore’s comment was clear. What sparked his interest in the toxic-waste issue was the situation in tone: ‘That was the one that you didn’t hear of. But that was the one that started it all.’ After learning about the Toone situation, Gore looked for other examples and ‘found’ a similar case at Love Canal. He was not claiming to have been the first one to discover Love Canal, which already had been evacuated. He simply needed other case studies for the hearings.” (Ibid.; p. 298.)
7. Note how the media deliberately butchered what Gore said: “The next day, The Washington Post stripped Gore’s comments of their context and gave them a negative twist. ‘Gore boasted about his efforts in Congress 20 years ago to publicize the dangers of toxic waste,’ the Post said. ‘I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal,’ he said, referring to the Niagara homes evacuated in August 1978 because of chemical contamination. ‘I had the first hearing on this issue.’ . . . Gore said his efforts made a lasting impact. ‘I was the one that started it all,’ he said.’ The New York Times ran a slightly less contentious story with the same false quote: ‘I was the one that started it all.’ . . . In just one day, the key quote had transformed from ‘that was the one that started it all’ to ‘I was the one who started it all.’ But instead of taking the offensive against these misquotes, Gore tried to head off the controversy by clarifying his meaning and apologizing if anyone got the wrong impression. But the fun was just beginning. The national pundit shows quickly picked up the story of Gore’s new exaggeration. . . .” (Idem.)
8. The media behaved in a similar, partisan manner with regard to Gore’s statements of the caricature of him in the novel Love Story. “The earliest of these Gore ‘lies,’ dating back to 1997, was Gore’s comment about a media report that he and his wife Tipper had served as models for the lead characters in the sentimental bestseller and movie, Love Story. When the author, Erich Segal, was asked about Gore’s impression, he stated that the preppy hockey-playing male lead, Oliver Barrett IV, indeed was modeled after Gore and Gore’s Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones. But Segal said the female lead, Jenny, was not modeled after Tipper Gore. Rather than treating this distinction as a minor point of legitimate confusion, the news media concluded that Gore had willfully lied. The media made the case an indictment against Gore’s honesty. In doing so, however, the media repeatedly misstated the facts, insisting that Segal had denied that Gore was the model for the lead male character. In reality, Segal had confirmed that Gore was, at least partly, the inspiration for the character, Barrett, played by Ryan O’Neal. . . .” (Ibid.; pp. 302–303.)
9. Robert Parry also details the origin and substance of the canard that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. Note, again, how the media functioned as little more than an adjunct to the GOP’s propaganda operations: “The media’s treatment of the Internet comment followed a similar course. Gore’s statement may have been poorly phrased, but its intent was clear: he was trying to say that he worked in Congress to help develop the Internet. Gore wasn’t claiming to have ‘invented’ the Internet,’ as many journalists have asserted. Gore’s actual comment, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that aired on March 9, 1999, was as follows: ‘During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.’ Republicans quickly went to work on Gore’s statement. In press releases, they noted that the precursor of the Internet, called ARPANET, existed in 1971, a half dozen years before Gore entered Congress. But ARPANET was a tiny networking of about 30 universities, a far cry from today’s ‘information superhighway,’ ironically a phrase widely credited to Gore. As the media clamor arose about Gore’s supposed claim that he had invented the Internet, Gore’s spokesman Chris Lehane tried to explain. He noted that Gore ‘was the leader in Congress on the connections between data transmission and computing power, what we call information technology. And those efforts helped to create the Internet that we know today.’ There was no disputing Lehane’s description of Gore’s lead congressional role in developing today’s Internet. But the media was off and running. Routinely, the reporters lopped off the introductory clause ‘during my service in the United States Congress’ or simply jumped to word substitutions, asserting that Gore claimed that he ‘invented’ the Internet, which carried the notion of hands-on computer engineer. . . .” (Ibid.; p. 303.)
10. Exemplifying the shamelessness of the media’s partisanship was the behavior of reporters viewing a primary campaign debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “ . . . At times the media jettisoned any pretext of objectivity. According to various accounts of the first Democratic debate in Hanover, New Hampshire, reporters openly mocked Gore as they sat in a nearby press room and watched the debate on television. Several journalists later described the incident, but without overt criticism of their colleagues. As The Daily Howler observed, Time’s Eric Pooley cited the reporters’ reaction only to underscore how Gore was failing in his ‘frenzied attempt to connect.’ ‘The ache was unmistakable—and even touching—but the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it,’ Pooley wrote. ‘Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.’ Hotline’s Howard Mortman described the same behavior as the reporters ‘groaned, laughed and howled’ at Gore’s comments. Later, during an appearance on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal,’ Salon.com’s Jake Tapper cited the Hanover incident, too. ‘I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.’ . . .” (Ibid.; p. 304.)
5. Concluding with discussion of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Robert Parry highlights the financial aid given to North Korea in the early 1990’s by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s business empire. This money may well have aided the Korean nuclear effort. In Secrecy and Privilege, Parry notes the profound links between the Bush family and the Moon organization. (For more about the Moon/Bush connection, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 490, 491.) “The Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s business empire, which includes the right-wing Washington Times, paid millions of dollars to North Korea’s communist leaders in the early 1990s when the hard-line government needed foreign currency to finance its weapons programs, according to U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents.
The payments included a $3 million ‘birthday present’ to current communist leader Kim Jong Il and offshore payments amounting to ‘several tens of million dollars’ to the previous communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, the documents said.
Moon apparently was seeking a business foothold in North Korea, but the transactions also raised potential legal questions for Moon, who appears to have defied U.S. embargos on trade and financial relations with the Pyongyang government. Those legal questions were never pursued, however, apparently because of Moon’s powerful political connections within the Republican power structure of Washington, including financial and political ties to the Bush family.
Besides making alleged payments to North Korea’s communist leaders, the 86-year-old founder of the South Korean-based Unification Church has funneled large sums of money, possibly millions of dollars, to former President George H.W. Bush.
One well-placed former leader of Moon’s Unification Church told me that the total earmarked for former President Bush was $10 million. The father of the current U.S. President has declined to say how much Moon’s organization actually paid him for speeches and other services in Asia, the United States and South America.
At one Moon-sponsored speech in Argentina in 1996, Bush declared, ‘I want to salute Reverend Moon,’ whom Bush praised as ‘the man with the vision.’
Bush made these speeches at a time when Moon was expressing intensely anti-American views. In his own speeches, Moon termed the United States ‘Satan’s harvest’ and claimed that American women descended from a ‘line of prostitutes.’
During the pivotal presidential campaign in 2000, Moon’s Washington Times alsoattacked the Clinton-Gore administration for failing to take more aggressive steps to block North Korea’s military research and development. The newspaper called the Clinton-Gore administration’s decisions an ‘abdication of responsibility for national security.’
Yet, in the 1990s when North Korea was scrambling for the resources to develop missiles and nuclear technology, Moon was among a small group of outside businessmen quietly investing in North Korea.
Moon’s activities attracted the attention of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is responsible for monitoring potential military threats to the United States.
Though historically an ardent anticommunist, Moon negotiated a business deal in 1991 with Kim Il Sung, the longtime communist leader, the DIA documents said.
The deal called for construction of a hotel complex in Pyongyang as well as a new Holy Land at the site of Moon’s birth in North Korea, one document said. The DIA said the deal sprang from face-to-face negotiations between Moon and Kim Il Sung in North Korea from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 1991.
‘These talks took place secretly, without the knowledge of the South Korean government,’ the DIA wrote on Feb. 2, 1994. ‘In the original deal with Kim [Il Sung], Moon paid several tens of million dollars as a down-payment into an overseas account,’ the DIA said in a cable dated Aug. 14, 1994.
The DIA said Moon’s organization also delivered money to Kim Il Sung’s son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
‘In 1993, the Unification Church sold a piece of property located in Pennsylvania,’ the DIA reported on Sept. 9, 1994. ‘The profit on the sale, approximately $3 million was sent through a bank in China to the Hong Kong branch of the KS [South Korean] company ‘Samsung Group.’ The money was later presented to Kim Jung Il [Kim Jong Il] as a birthday present.’
After Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994 and his succession by his son, Kim Jong Il, Moon dispatched his longtime aide, Bo Hi Pak, to ensure that the business deals were still on track with Kim Jong Il ‘and his coterie,’ the DIA reported.
‘If necessary, Moon authorized Pak to deposit a second payment for Kim Jong Il,’ the DIA wrote.
The DIA declined to elaborate on the documents that it released to me under a Freedom of Information Act request in 2000. ‘As for the documents you have, you have to draw your own conclusions,’ said DIA spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Stainbrook.
Contacted in Seoul, South Korea, in fall 2000, Bo Hi Pak, a former publisher of The Washington Times, denied that payments were made to individual North Korean leaders and called ‘absolutely untrue’ the DIA’s description of the $3 million land sale benefiting Kim Jong Il.
But Bo Hi Pak acknowledged that Moon met with North Korean officials and negotiated business deals with them in the early 1990s. Pak said the North Korean business investments were structured through South Korean entities.
‘Rev. Moon is not doing this in his own name,’ said Pak.
Pak said he went to North Korea in 1994, after Kim Il Sung’s death, only to express ‘condolences’ to Kim Jong Il on behalf of Moon and his wife. Pak denied that another purpose of the trip was to pass money to Kim Jong Il or to his associates.
Asked about the seeming contradiction between Moon’s avowed anti-communism and his friendship with leaders of a communist state, Pak said, ‘This is time for reconciliation. We’re not looking at ideological differences. We are trying to help them out’ with food and other humanitarian needs.
Samsung officials said they could find no information in their files about the alleged $3 million payment.
North Korean officials clearly valued their relationship with Moon. In February of 2000, on Moon’s 80th birthday, Kim Jong Il sent Moon a gift of rare wild ginseng, an aromatic root used medicinally, Reuters reported.
Because of the long-term U.S. embargo against North Korea, Moon’s alleged payments to the communist leaders raised potential legal issues for Moon, a South Korean citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident alien.
‘Nobody in the United States was supposed to be providing funding to anybody in North Korea, period, under the Treasury (Department’s) sanction regime,’ said Jonathan Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state handling international crime.
The U.S. embargo of North Korea dates back to the Korean War. With a few exceptions for humanitarian goods, the embargo barred trade and financial dealings between North Korea and ‘all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, … and all branches, subsidiaries and controlled affiliates of U.S. organizations throughout the world.’
Moon became a permanent resident of the United States in 1973, according to Justice Department records. Bo Hi Pak said Moon has kept his ‘green card’ status. Though often in South Korea and South America, Moon maintained a residence near Tarrytown, north of New York City, and controls dozens of affiliated U.S. companies.
Direct payments to foreign leaders in connection with business deals also could have prompted questions about possible violations of the U.S. Corrupt Practices Act, a prohibition against overseas bribery.
(But in the six years since we disclosed the Moon-North Korean payments, George W. Bush’s administration has taken no legal action against Moon. Meanwhile, Moon’s Washington Times has been one of Bush’s most consistent and aggressive backers in the U.S. news media.)
Moon’s followers regard him as the second Messiah and grant him broad power over their lives, even letting him pick their spouses. Critics, including ex-Unification Church members, have accused Moon of brainwashing young recruits and living extravagantly while his followers have little.
Around the world, Moon’s business relationships long have been cloaked in secrecy. His sources of money have been mysteries, too, although witnesses – including his former daughter-in-law – have come forward in recent years and alleged criminal money-laundering within the organization.
Moon ‘demonstrated contempt for U.S. law every time he accepted a paper bag full of untraceable, undeclared cash collected from true believers’ who carried the money in from overseas, wrote his ex-daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, in her 1998 book, In the Shadows of the Moons.
Since Moon stepped onto the international stage in the 1970s, he has used his fortune to build political alliances and to finance media, academic and political institutions.
In 1978, Moon was identified by the congressional ‘Koreagate’ investigation as an operative of the South Korean CIA and part of an influence-buying scheme aimed at the U.S. government. Moon denied the charges.
Though Moon later was convicted on federal tax evasion charges, his political influence continued to grow when he founded The Washington Times in 1982. The unabashedly right-wing newspaper won favor with presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush by backing their policies and hammering their opponents.
In 1988, when then-Vice President Bush was trailing early in the presidential race, the Times spread a baseless rumor that the Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis had undergone psychiatric treatment. The Moon-affiliated American Freedom Coalition also distributed millions of pro-Bush flyers.
The elder George Bush personally expressed his gratitude. When Wesley Pruden was appointed The Washington Times’ editor-in-chief in 1991, Bush invited Pruden to a private White House lunch ‘just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day.’ [Washington Times, May 17, 1992].
While Bush was hosting Pruden in the White House, Pruden’s boss was opening his financial and business channels to North Korea. According to the DIA, Moon’s North Korean deal was ambitious and expensive.
‘There was an agreement regarding economic cooperation for the reconstruction of KN’s [North Korea’s] economy which included establishment of a joint venture to develop tourism at Kimkangsan, KN [North Korea]; investment in the Tumangang River Development; and investment to construct the light industry base at Wonsan, KN. It is believed that during their meeting Mun [Moon] donated 450 billion yen to KN,’ one DIA report said.
In late 1991, the Japanese yen traded at about 130 yen to the U.S. dollar, meaning Moon’s investment would have been about $3.5 billion, if the DIA information is correct.
Moon’s aide Pak denied that Moon’s investments ever approached that size. Though Pak did not give an overall figure, he said the initial phase of an automobile factory was in the range of $3 million to $6 million.
The DIA depicted Moon’s business plans in North Korea as much grander. The DIA valued the agreement for hotels in Pyongyang and the resort in Kumgang-san, alone, at $500 million. The plans also called for creation of a kind of Vatican City covering Moon’s birthplace.
‘In consideration of Mun’s [Moon’s] economic cooperation, Kim [Il Sung] granted Mun a 99-year lease on a 9 square kilometer parcel of land located in Chongchu, Pyonganpukto, KN. Chongchu is Mun’s birthplace and the property will be used as a center for the Unification Church. It is being referred to as the Holy Land by Unification Church believers and Mun [h]as been granted extraterritoriality during the life of the lease.’
North Korea granted Moon some smaller favors, too. Four months after Moon’s meeting with Kim Il Sung, editors from The Washington Times were allowed to interview the reclusive North Korean communist leader in what the Times called ‘the first interview he has granted to an American newspaper in many years.’
Later in 1992, the Times was again rallying to President George H.W. Bush’s defense. The newspaper stepped up attacks against Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh as his investigation homed in on Bush and his inner circle. Walsh considered the Times’ relentless criticism a distraction to the criminal investigation, according to his book, Firewall.
That fall, in the 1992 campaign, the Times turned its editorial guns on Bush’s new rival, Bill Clinton. Some of the anti-Clinton articles raised questions about Clinton’s patriotism, even suggesting that the Rhodes scholar might have been recruited as a KGB agent during a collegiate trip to Moscow.
George H.W. Bush’s loss of the White House did not end his relationship with Moon’s organization. Out of office, Bush agreed to give paid speeches to Moon-supported groups in the United States, Asia and South America. In some cases, Barbara Bush joined in the events.
During this period, Moon grew increasingly hateful about the United States and many of its ideals.
In a speech to his followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed to liquidate American individuality, declaring that his movement would ‘swallow entire America.’ Moon said Americans who insisted on ‘their privacy and extreme individualism … will be digested.’
Nevertheless, former President Bush continued to work for Moon’s organization. In November 1996, the former U.S. President spoke at a dinner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, launching Moon’s South American newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo.
‘I want to salute Reverend Moon,’ Bush declared, according to a transcript of the speech published in The Unification News, an internal church newsletter.
‘A lot of my friends in South America don’t know about The Washington Times, but it is an independent voice,’ Bush said. ‘The editors of The Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C.’
Contrary to Bush’s claim, a number of senior editors and correspondents have resigned in protest of editorial interference from Moon’s operatives. Bush has refused to say how much he was paid for the speech in Buenos Aires or others in Asia and the United States.
During the 2000 election cycle, Moon’s newspaper took up the cause of Bush’s son and mounted harsh attacks against his rival, Vice President Al Gore.
In 1999, the Times played a prominent role in promoting a bogus quote attributed to Gore about his work on the toxic waste issue. In a speech in Concord, N.H., Gore had referred to a toxic waste case in Toone, Tennessee, and said, ‘that was the one that started it all.’
The New York Times and The Washington Post garbled the quote, claiming that Gore had said, ‘I was the one that started it all.’
The Washington Times took over from there, accusing Gore of being clinically ‘delusional.’ The Times called the Vice President ‘a politician who not only manufactures gross, obvious lies about himself and his achievements but appears to actually believe these confabulations.’ [Washington Times, Dec. 7, 1999]
Even after other papers corrected the false quote, The Washington Times continued to use it. The notion of Gore as an exaggerator, often based on this and other mis-reported incidents, became a powerful Republican ‘theme’ as Texas Gov. Bush surged ahead of Gore in the presidential preference polls.
Republicans also made the North Korean threat an issue against the Clinton-Gore administration. In 1999, a report by a House Republican task force warned that during the 1990s, North Korea and its missile program emerged as a nuclear threat to Japan and possibly the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
‘This threat has advanced considerably over the past five years, particularly with the enhancement of North Korea’s missile capabilities,’ the Republican task force said. ‘Unlike five years ago, North Korea can now strike the United States with a missile that could deliver high explosive, chemical, biological, or possibly nuclear weapons.’
Moon’s newspaper joined in excoriating the Clinton-Gore administration for postponing a U.S. missile defense system to counter missiles from North Korea and other ‘rogue states.’ Gov. Bush favored such a system.
‘To its list of missed opportunities, the Clinton-Gore administration can now add the abdication of responsibility for national security,’ a Times editorial said.
‘By deciding not to begin construction of the Alaskan radar, Mr. Clinton has indisputably delayed eventual deployment beyond 2005, when North Korea is estimated to be capable of launching an intercontinental missile against the United States.’ [Washington Times, Sept. 5, 2000]
The Washington Times did not note that its founder – who has continued to subsidize the newspaper with tens of millions of dollars a year – had defied a U.S. trade embargo aimed at containing the military ambitions of North Korea.
By supplying money at a time when North Korea was desperate for hard currency, Moon helped deliver the means for the communist state to advance exactly the strategic threat that Moon’s newspaper chastised the Clinton-Gore administration for failing to thwart.
That money bought Moon influence inside North Korea. The Korean theocrat also appears to have secured crucial protection from George W. Bush’s administration, after investing wisely for many years in the President’s family.”
(“Moon, North Korea and the Bushes” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 10/11/2006.)