On Native Ground
WANTED: A FEW REPORTERS WITH THE GUTS TO TAKE ON THE USE ADMINISTRATION
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The frenzy over "Deep Throat" is fading. The hosannas over the brief, shining moment in history when reporters did their jobs and brought down a corrupt president are dying down.
Perhaps now, we can return to the present day and the multitude of opportunities that exist for latter-day Woodwards and Bernsteins to shine.
Granted, over the last three decades, corporate journalism has become more timid and deferential to power. But as criminally evil as Richard Nixon was, President George W. Bush has him beat. And all it will take to end our current national nightmare is a few good journalists who don't care what Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly thinks of them.
There have been so many misdeeds committed by the Bush administration over the past four years, its hard to keep track of them all.
To me, it all goes back to Iraq.
The Bush administration's decision to invade that country under false pretenses has tarnished America's reputation and has trapped U.S. forces in a Vietnam-style quagmire for years to come.
They wanted this war. They wanted it well before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. We now even have the proof - the "Downing Street Memo" leaked to the Times of London a few weeks ago.
The memo, from MI-6 head Richard Dearlove, (the British equivalent of CIA director), was from a meeting with the Bush administration in July 2002. According to Dearlove, the Bush administration was determined to attack Iraq even though there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, no evidence of links to foreign terrorists and no evidence that Iraq posed a direct or indirect threat to the United States.
"Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy," according to Dearlove's memo. In other words, they were being fabricated to fit the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq.
Everything the Bush administration said in the months before the invasion was a lie - the tales of aluminum tubes destined for missile production, mobile chemical weapons labs, importation of uranium from Niger, unmanned drone planes to deliver biological weapons.
Every word of it.
That the White House was lying was evident in the summer and fall of 2002. But few in Congress wanted to believe that the Bush administration would deliberately lie to Congress and the American people to gin up an unneeded, unnecessary war. Congress fell into line and voted to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq.
Nearly 1,700 American soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are now dead because of these lies. As bad as the crimes committed by the Nixon administration during Watergate were, they pale beside the bigger crime of duping a nation into going to war.
That's only the start. Add the billions earmarked for reconstruction in Iraq that have been squandered by private contractors with cozy ties to the Bush administration. Add the lack of any sort of post-war reconstruction plan. Add the lack of manpower to ensure even a rudimentary level of security. And top it all off with the torture and occasional killing of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody.
This too, is all well documented and sitting in public view. There's no need for a Deep Throat, just someone who can connect the dots and say that President Bush and his administration are guilty of crimes against the Constitution - crimes so numerous and so great that impeachment proceedings should begin immediately.
Unfortunately, I know how remote the chances are of impeachment proceedings taking place. With Republicans in control of Congress and the judiciary, the sort of Congressional hearings that we saw during Watergate will not happen.
So it is up to the court of public opinion to render a verdict on the Bush administration.
I realize the obstacles to telling the truth. I know the coziness of today's journalists with the people they cover. I know the devil's bargain they have made, trading access for the right to have their sources control what they report. In today's Washington, a reporter without access is a dead reporter walking.
But the truth will not be found at a White House press briefing. It will not appear in a handout from a government agency. And just because some government official issues a denial doesn't necessarily mean the story is over.
It's going to take reporters who aren't afraid of sacrificing their insider status. Great reporters, guys like George Seldes and I.F. Stone, didn't go to press conferences or hang out at the White House. They dug into official documents and pieced together the facts from what was sitting around in plain sight.
As for status, Seymour Hersh may not get any invitations to write for The New York Times or The Washington Post. He has to settle for writing for The New Yorker, getting big book contracts and lecturing around the country. If that's being a pariah, it's not a bad deal.
Granted, Hersh is doing well. Gary Webb wasn't as fortunate. He dared to take on the CIA and saw his career destroyed as a result. But even the gods can't change history. Webb is gone, but his reporting stands the test of time.
It's going to take a print or broadcast media outlet brave enough not to care what the right-wingers say. Let the Limbaughs and O'Reillys and Hannitys and Coulters foam at the mouth. The truth will be enough to expose them as the power whores they really are.
The truth is indisputable. In pursuit of a neo-conservative dream of an American-controlled empire in the Middle East, the United States invaded Iraq. There was no justification for such an invasion, but the Bush administration went ahead with its plans and lied every step of the way to convince the nation that war was necessary. In conjuring up a war out of thin air, the Bush administration violated not only the Constitution, but international law as well.
Even if impeachment is impossible, the Bush administration must be held accountable for this illegal and immoral war. Only the press, aided by an informed and aroused citizenry, can do this. It won't bring back the dead, but it might restore our national reputation and extricate our forces from an unwinnable war.
So who wants to be the next Woodward and Bernstein? Who wants to be the next Ben Bradlee? Who wants to be the next Deep Throat? Who wants to reclaim the truth and our nation's honor from the hands of scheming men?
A nation is waiting for a few good men and women who aren't afraid to step forward and accept this challenge.
I still have faith that they are out there.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.