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Obscenity, A Sign of the Times and the Post
by Harold Williamson
June 29, 2004

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A chance meeting on the Senate floor during a photo session on June 22 between Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., turned into an argument about Cheney's questionable ties to Halliburton Co., and it ended when Cheney offered this crass advice to Leahy: "Fuck yourself."

Since that is a physical impossibility, Cheney's remark should not be interpreted in its literal sense; however, the Washington Post printed it verbatim as they have been wont to do with anything emanating from the aura of the Bush administration. "For nearly three years, murky speculation, innuendo and inaccurate information have kept a connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of Sept.11 alive in the American mind," said The New York Times.

Ironically, that last bit of analysis comes from a most prominent member of the American press that has recently admitted to repeatedly publishing just that, contributing to the findings of the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll that "62 percent still think Iraq provided direct support to Al Qaeda, nearly what it was (68 percent) in January 2003, before the war."

Cheney's remark comes on the heels of the Sept. 11 commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, and its vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, insisting that they had not seen any evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. But even though this observation seems to significantly weaken the Bush administration's justification for the preventive strike against Iraq, they are steadfast in the notion that this does not conflict with the latest party line from the White House. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton appeared to suggest that any differences over the issue were largely semantic."

In a recent posting at ZNet, Noam Chomsky foresees that "the commission will naturally try to downplay any contradictions and allow the administration to squeak through. . . ." Remember, this is the very same Lee H. Hamilton that chaired the House select committee investigating the Iran-contra affair. Even though he was shown ample evidence against Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, this loyal company man made sure that the committee did not probe very deep into their wrongdoing. There is no reason to believe things will be any different now.

But at least for one shining moment, a grammarian was not needed to parse the meaning from something said by a member of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, because this kind of clarity was absent in the American press during the run-up to the war with Iraq, it is this administration's use of ambiguity, not profanity, that has proven to be obscene.

Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based independent scholar. He can be reached at:

Other Articles by Harold Williamson

* Thinking Anew: A Do-It-Yourself Project
* America's Blind Faith in Government
* Think Tanks and the Brainwashing of America
* Bully for the Bush Doctrine: A Natural History Perspective