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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Lie Deadlier than WMD

We have anthrax.

You die now.

Are you afraid?

Death to America.

Death to Israel.

Allah is great.

-Letter sent to Sen. Pat Leahy, containing anthrax

It's the overlooked news story of the week. Not the news that researcher Bruce Ivins committed suicide as the feds closed in on him for distributing anthrax after 9/11. That news has been all over the place. Not that the feds are considering closing the case, now that their prime suspect is dead. Not that another researcher at the same lab, Steven Hatfill, was wrongly investigated.

No, the big news in the anthrax case is old news. And it's news the media doesn't seem too interested in -- mostly because it makes them look very, very bad. The anthrax attacks played a big part in leading us to war with Iraq and the media played along.

-Continued after the jump-

One thing this case should remind us of is that an often repeated neocon line is complete BS -- that we haven't been hit by terrorism since 9/11. Not only were the anthrax letters terrorism, but the Beltway Snipers were terrorists as well. The events of September 11, 2001 were followed by several acts of terrorism -- including a pipe bombing spree by a slacker moron which was also terrorism, just pointless terrorism. Immediately following 9/11, we were hit repeatedly by terrorism.

But that fact is inconvenient to the "Bush did a great job" narrative, so it's airbrushed out of history like a Soviet bigwig who's fallen out of favor with the Premier and the party. It never happened, those people never existed, the response to 9/11 was flawless, decisive, and immediately effective. The party line is that there was no terrorism on US soil after 9/11. The media routinely allows this lie to be repeated, never challenging whichever Commissar tells it.

But the party had a use for the anthrax story at one time. It wasn't erased from the history books, but held up like a flag as we marched into Iraq. There's a reason why Colin Powell held up a vial of white powder at the UN and told the General Assembly, "[W]hen Iraq finally admitted having these weapons in 1995, the quantities were vast. Less than a teaspoon of dry anthrax, a little bit about this amount -- this is just about the amount of a teaspoon -- less than a teaspoon full of dry anthrax in an envelope shutdown the United States Senate in the fall of 2001. This forced several hundred people to undergo emergency medical treatment and killed two postal workers just from an amount just about this quantity that was inside of an envelope."

Anthrax was a key part of the WMD which Saddam Hussein didn't have, but was supposed to have had. If we didn't attack Iraq, we'd never be able to be safe -- anthrax could come to us with the phone bill.

It was at this point that the administration began to make up lies. There is no requirement that government propaganda can't be absolutely true. You can mislead without ever lying. In fact, there isn't even any requirement that propaganda mislead. But, in the case of anthrax, the whole point was to mislead, to place blame. And there was no shortage of propagandists to lie to us about where that blame should be placed.

I probably should point out that there are few things I hate more than propaganda. The way it changes reality and deludes people is much more dangerous than any drug. It can lead people down the road to madness and death and darkness, as it has us. It's one of the subjects I write most about. Propaganda seems to be used most often to rebuild reality to the propagandist's liking. It's an attempt to get us all to live a lie and, as a result, to make liars of us all.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, one of the propagandists seeking to make liars -- and murderers -- of us all was current presidential candidate John McCain. On October 18, 2001, McCain had the following exchange with David Letterman:

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN: I think we’re doing fine …. I think we’ll do fine. The second phase — if I could just make one, very quickly — the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?

MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that’s when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.

So much for all that "straight talk." There was, of course, no evidence that the anthrax came from Iraq; mostly because, as we all know now, it hadn't. But that didn't keep the neocon masterminds from leaking false information to the press to make their case. Glenn Greenwald collected the claims reported by ABC News Investigative Reporter Brian Ross:

(a) "the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite";

(b) bentonite is "a troubling chemical additive that authorities consider their first significant clue yet";

(c) "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons";

(d) bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program"; and,

(e) "the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994" and "the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope."

"All of those factual claims," writes Greenwald, "each and every one of them, separately -- were completely false, demonstrably and unquestionably so." There was no bentonite in the sample. The anthrax was from a US source and any investigation would've revealed that. We were lied to. Ross cited "three well-placed but separate sources" and later "at least four well-placed sources." Brian Ross was punked. With the intent of punking us all.

So, we were lied into war with Iraq. Without question. Bush's few remaining defenders often say that Bush was merely "mistaken," that everything he thought he knew was wrong. How this is a defense is beyond me. As is so often the case with the Bush administration, you're left with a decision about the story -- they were either lying or they were freakin' morons. And, as I point out so often, one doesn't preclude the other.

The death of Bruce Ivins should've prompted a look back at the history of the story. Instead, it's being reported as if the story all along was that the anthrax was sent by a serial killer. The lies are glossed over, in order to protect a gullible media and, by extension, those who lied to them. We had put our trust in the administration and the media and that trust was betrayed. Tens of thousands of people have died because of a deadly combination of lies and chumps eager to believe and repeat them. Bruce Ivins may have used his anthrax to kill a few people, but the administration used it to kill thousands.

As I said, I hate propaganda. It's the deadliest possible lie, a mass hallucination-inducing drug capable of destroying entire nations. It's a WMD all its own, complete with a lingering damage that poisons the landscape for generations, like radiation.

John McCain played a part in this monstrous crime and this monstrous lie. Whether he did it knowingly or from ignorance is an open question. It's entirely possible that he, like ABC's Brian Ross, was just a sap used as a propaganda distribution tool. But absent any evidence either way, I have to mae that a 50/50 -- there's a 50% chance that McCain was a shill and 50% that he was just another pigeon.

But the man who's currently attacking Barack Obama's judgment has a very severe judgment problem himself. Not only is he still a big fan of invading Iraq, but he remains one despite the fact that one of the reasons he himself gave for it turned out to be a complete lie. A lie that he either fell for or was in on.

Like Bush, we're left with only two possibilities here -- John McCain was lying or stupid. It doesn't say a lot for the man's judgment. His willing embrace of propaganda proves he has no business within a mile of the bully pulpit. We got led down that road once, we'd be fools to take the same trip again.


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