There’s a nice interview of Noam Chomsky by David Barsamian in the latest International Socialist Review. Somewhere in the interview Barsamian is talking about the appointment of the blood-soaked butcher John Negroponte (who served as US ambassador to Honduras during the US-financed Reagan dirty wars in Central America) as US ambassador overseeing the supposed export of “freedom” (including the freedom to be raped by multinational corporations under the protection of the imperial occupation state) to “liberated” Iraq and is moved to quote Orwell from Nineteen Eighty Four. He picks from a section where Orwell discusses how the totalitarian state depicted in 1984 would obliterate the record and consciousness of any and all history that did not suit its current party line. “Everything,” Orwell wrote, “faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
“The only addition one should make to the Orwell quote,” Chomsky tells Barsamian, “is that nothing had to be effaced because it was effaced instantly. It didn’t happen.”
Recent examples of totalitarian history erasure, conducted in no small part by US corporate state media: (1) the obliteration of any serious memory (outside the mainstream) of US support for Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and WMD capacities; (2) obliteration of such memory of US organization and financing of extremist right-wing Islamist forces during the Cold War period; (3) the almost instantaneous replacement of protecting Americans from the Iraq-terrorist WMD threat with democracy promotion as the reason behind the invasion of Iraq.
And now we have the The 9/11 Commission Report.
In my last post, I noted that “September” and “Eleventh” were the first two words out of Bush’s mouth during the now-concluded 2004 presidential debates and I noted Kerry’s refusal to challenge Bush’s brazen exploitation of 9/11 by pointing out that the jetliner attacks were a monumental US security failure reflecting callous and criminal negligence and indifference on the part of the Bush White House.
The chance that the Kerry campaign might have taken a different approach was largely pre-empted by the now practically iconic (have you seen it displayed, with a large number of copies --- get one while they’re hot --- in the front of your local Borders and/or Barnes and Noble?) 9/11 Commission Report, which lamely transmits Bush’s claim that “if his advisers had told him there was a [terrorist] cell in the United States, [we] would have taken care of it.”
Recall that Bush would not come to testify under oath to the commission about the most momentous question supposedly under review: what did he know about the al Qaeda threat, when did he know it, and if he didn’t know much why was that? Bush reluctantly agreed to speak to the Commission at all. He met with them under very restricted conditions: a small number (I think just 2, could be wrong) commissioners came to he oval office to respectfully ask questions, note pads in hand (tape-recording was prohibited) in a solemn audience with His Excellency and Uncle Dick (Cheney). As his questioners cringed beneath the glare of vice president Darth Vader and the Divine Right of George, the Liar-in-Chief looked his bold inquisitors in the eyes and told them that he had not been told by anyone that those nasty al Qaeda terrorists were in the country.
And at this point the Commissioners had A REALLY BIG PROBLEM. Their problem was that, as Benjamin De Mott notes in the latest Harper’s, “THE PRESIDENT’S CLAIM WAS UNTRUE. It was a LIE and the Commissioners realized they couldn’t allow it to be seen as a lie. Numberless officials had appeared before the whole body of the Commission or before its aides, had been sworn in [unlike Bush], and had thereafter provided circumstantial detail about their attempts --- beginning with the pre-election campaign briefings in September, through November 2003 --- to educate Bush as candidate, then as president-elect, then as commander in chief, about the threat from terrorists on our shores. The news these officials brought was spelled out in pithy papers both short and long; the documentation supplied was in every respect impressive. Nevertheless, the chief executive seated before the Commission, declared: Nobody told me. And challenging the chief executive as a liar entailed an unthinkable cost - the possible rending of the nation’s social and political fabric.”
Spend the six bucks to buy the latest Harper’s and read the featured cover story by DeMott: “Whitewash as Public Service: How The 9/11 Commission Report Defrauds the Nation.”
The last DeMott sentence I quoted above provides some useful context for understanding why Kerry --- who would be the richest president since JFK1 --- grants Bush the shroud of 9/11 no questions asked. “The social and political fabric” has been working pretty good for the super-opulent Kerry and his ilk.
Kerry might be somewhat differently disposed regarding the 9/11 issue, however, if not for the miserable failure of the 9/11 Commission Report, which shamefully betrays the Commission’s truth-seeking charter and leaves little space for Kerry to force an honest discussion of the lead up to the events that became the fanatic Bush cabal’s Reichstag Fire.
In any event, the report has naturally and conveniently achieved honorary final-word status in the totalitarian mainstream, whose guardians work diligently to put to rest those nasty and dangerous little family questions about how Daddy is raping his children and deserves a life behind bars.
Bush’s utter indifference to, and refusal to act upon, abundant evidence and insistent pleas within his own national security state about the threat posed by al Qaeda?
It didn’t happen.
What negligence? For Kerry and the Commission and the mainstream coverage, it’s all “down the memory hole,” to use another phrase from 1984.
For my part I’m not impressed by the quality of “the nation’s social and political fabric.” I see too much data about and hear too many stories about and directly witness too much of the sadistic chaos that “fabric” (which I tends to see as an interlocking set of rigidly hierarchical power structures) inflicts on the massive and rising number of Americans who experience extreme exclusion and disadvantage. Those people and indeed the rest of us need people in positions of public responsibility to tell the truth and we need and deserve a very different and better social order.
It won’t do to argue on the left for voting “for” Kerry --- really against Bush --- on the basis of the notion that Orwellian thought control will ensue if the incumbent comes back for a second term. Bush is probably the most aggressively Orwellian president I’ve seen, but the cold fact is that Orwellian amnesia is already quite intact in the US and has been for quite some time. The 9/11 Commission Report is the bi-partisan brainwash/whitewash that a reasonable independent observer of recent history and current events should naturally expect.
Paul Street is a writer and researcher in Chicago, Illinois. His book Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 is now available from Paradigm Publishers. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Recent Articles by Paul Street
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Gender, and Mass Infantilization