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On Dec. 31, 2003, New York Times columnist and former Nixon speech writer William Safire offered his standard New Yearís predictions. This time, however, one item stood out. In addition to speculating on everything from which country would next "feel the force of U.S. liberation" to who would win the best picture Oscar, Safire predicted that "the 'October surprise' affecting the U.S. election" would be "a major terror attack in the United States." [Salt Lake Tribune ]
While such speculation is hardly worth a trip to the duct tape store, when combined with repeated assaults to our democratic process and troublesome assertions from noteworthy sources, it warrants further investigation.
In Nov. 2003, you might recall, Gen. Tommy Franks told Cigar Aficionado magazine that a major terrorist attack (even one that occurred elsewhere in the Western world), would likely result in a suspension of the U.S. Constitution and the installation of a military form of government. "[A] terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world -- it may be in the United States of America -- [would cause] our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event," he said. [NewsMax.com ]
Right around the same time, former Clinton administration official David Rothkopf made similarly distressing observations. In a Washington Post op-ed entitled, "Terrorist Logic: Disrupt the 2004 Election," he described a meeting in which nearly 75 percent of the professional participants (characterized as "serious people, not prone to hysteria or panic") also foresaw another terrorist attack occurring on American soil before the next election. "Recently, I co-chaired a meeting hosted by CNBC of more than 200 senior business and government executives, many of whom are specialists in security and terrorism related issues," he wrote. "Almost three-quarters of them said it was likely the United States would see a major terrorist strike before the end of 2004." [Washington Post ]
Saying that "history suggests that striking during major elections is an effective tool for terrorist groups," Rothkopf explained why terrorists will most likely target us soon. And though he and Safire made these observations months before terrorists changed Spainís political landscape, they were not alone in thinking along such lines. "Even before the bombings in Madrid, White House officials were worrying that terrorists might strike the United States before the November elections," USA Today reported, before commenting on how terrorists could "try the same tactics in the United States to create fear and chaos." [USA Today ]
The New York Times also reported on the possibility that Al Qaeda would try to "influence the outcome of the election" by striking U.S. oil refineries. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned the Texas oil industry of potential attacks by Al Qaeda on pipelines and refineries near the time of the November presidential election," the Times reported. [New York Times ]
MSNBC, CNN and other news organizations also chimed in, raising concerns about this summer's political conventions. "In the wake of what happened in Madrid, we have to be concerned about the possibility of terrorists attempting to influence elections in the United States by committing a terrorist act," FBI Director Robert Mueller told CNN. "Quite clearly, there will be substantial preparations for each of the conventions." [CNN ]
Right-wing columnists and pundits have since (surprise, surprise) tried to capitalize on such fears. "If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party?" David Brooks opined in the New York Times on March 16, [Libertypost.org ] before Richard Clarke revealed that the Clinton administration was actually more "aggressively anti-terror" than the bumbling Bushes. (Could that be why the Bush administration refuses to turn over thousands of pages of the nearly 11,000 files on the Clinton administrationís antiterrorism efforts?)
Sean Hannity twisted things further. "If we are attacked before our election like Spain was, I am not so sure that we should go ahead with the election," he reportedly said. "We had better make plans now because itís going to happen."
And, of course, what usurpation of democracy would be complete without Rush Limbaugh weighing in? "Do [the terrorists] bide their time and wait, or do they try to replicate their success in Spain here in America before our election?" Limbaugh asked, before revealing how "titans of industry," and "international business people (who do not outsource, by the way)" were "very, very, very concerned" that one true party forever rule the Fatherland.
"They all were seeking from me reassurance that the White House was safe this year, that John Kerry would not win," Limbaugh said. "Who do you think the terrorists would rather have in office in this country -- socialists like those in Spain as personified by John Kerry and his friends in the Democratic Party, or George W. Bush?"
Saying that a pre-election terrorist attack is not a question of "if" but "when," Limbaugh concluded that should anyone but Bush occupy the White House, the terrorists will have won. [RushLimbaugh.com ]
Given the bizarre mind-melding between the government and media and the Soviet-style propagandizing that's been taking place, one has to wonder: Is there is any significance in the fact that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and David Brooks are all beating the same tom-tom? As former White House insider Richard Clarke recently told Jon Stewart, "[There are] dozens of people, in the White House. . . writing talking points, calling up conservative columnists, calling up talk radio hosts, telling them what to say. Itís interesting. All the talk radio people, the right wing talk radio people across the country, saying the exact same thing, exactly the same words."
Stewart noted that a 24-hour news network was also making observations that were "remarkably similar to what the White House was saying."
Even though Andrew Card admitted that "from a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," in May, 2002, Wayne Madsen and John Stanton revealed that the governmentís marketing preparations for the war were already underway, with U.S. Air Force scientists consulting with CNN "to figure out how to gather and disseminate information." [CounterPunch.org ]
In an article entitled, "When the War Hits Home: U.S. Plans for Martial Law, Tele-Governance and the Suspension of Elections," Madsen and Stanton delved into the more frightening aspects of what might be in store. "One incident, one aircraft hijacked, a 'dirty nuke' set off in a small town, may well prompt the Bush regime, let's say during the election campaign of 2003-2004, to suspend national elections for a year while his government ensures stability," they wrote. "Many closed door meetings have been held on these subjects and the notices for these meetings have been closely monitored by the definitive www.cryptome.org."
To make matters worse, if martial law is imposed, Air Force General Ralph E. Eberhart will be able to blast through Posse Comitatus and deploy troops to Americaís streets. Gen. Eberhart, you might recall, is the former Commander of NORAD, which was in charge of protecting Americaís skies on Sept. 11. But instead of being scrutinized for NORADís massive failures, he was promoted and now heads the Pentagon's Northern Command. And, as military analyst William M. Arkin explained, "It is only in the case of 'extraordinary' domestic operations that would enable Gen. Eberhart to bring in "intelligence collectors, special operators and even full combat troops" to bear. What kind of situation would have to occur to grant Eberhart "the far-reaching authority that goes with 'extraordinary operationsí"? Nothing. He already has that authority. [Los Angeles Times ]
Which brings us to the inevitable (and most important) question. How primed is the American public to accept suspended elections, martial law, or whatever else the White House decides to "market"?
Consider, for a moment, what an invaluable propaganda conduit the media was during the lead up to war in Iraq -- and just how weird things have become since. Howard Stern insists he was targeted by Clear Channel and the FCC after speaking out against George Bush [BuzzFlash.com ]; former White House Aide Anna Perez (who worked under Condoleezza Rice and served as former first lady Barbara Bushís press secretary) is slated to become chief communications executive for NBC; and MSNBC featured a story entitled, "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq" on its Web site only to have it disappear down the Memory Hole in the course of a few hours. [TheMemoryHole.org ]
Moreover, last yearís Clear Channel sponsorship of pro-war/pro-Bush rallies was so Orwellian, that former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson remarked, "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news." [Chicago Tribune ] Meanwhile, the mysterious Karen Ryan (of "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting" fakery fame [Journalism.NYU.edu ]) was featured in the New York Times. "Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists, praising the benefits of the new Medicare law. . . , " the Times reported.
Need more proof that something is amiss? As of Feb. 5, 2004, CBS News was still reporting that one of the hijackers' passports was "found on the street minutes after the plane he was aboard crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center," [CBS ] and for far too long, pundits have taken to spreading White House rumors without checking facts --while denying any White House connection once these rumors prove false.
And most baffling of all, whenever anyone does tell the truth, a bevy of Stepford Citizens reveal that theyíd rather hear lies. After Richard Clarke spilled the Bush beans on 60 Minutes, for example, the mail was overwhelmingly negative -- with some writing that Clarke should be tried for treason and others asking CBS, "Why canít you be 'fair and balancedí like FOX?" (Perhaps those viewers are denizens of the Free Republic Web site, where posters actually pondered the question: "Should the US have elections if attacked?" [FreeRepublic.com ])
The most bizarre example of the White Houseís dysfunctional domination of the media, however, occurred last week -- with the surreal controversy involving David Letterman and CNN. In case you missed it, on Monday, Letterman showed a video clip which featured a bored, fidgety kid standing behind George W. Bush, who was giving a speech in Orlando. The next day, CNN also ran that clip, but anchor Daryn Kagan returned from commercial break to inform viewers, "We're being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into that video." Later, a second CNN anchor said that the boy was at the rally, but wasn't necessarily standing behind George W. Bush.
"That is an out and out 100 percent absolute lie. The kid absolutely was there, and he absolutely was doing everything we pictured via the videotape," Letterman said on Tuesday.
"Explanations continued through Wednesday and Thursday, with Letterman referring to "indisputable" and "very high-placed source" who told him that the White House had, in fact, called CNN. "This is where it gets a little hinky," Letterman said on Thursday, rehashing the back and forth nonsense that played like a bad SNL sketch. "We were told that the White House didnít call CNN. That was the development the other day. So Iím upset because I smell a conspiracy. I think somethingís gone haywire. I see this as the end of democracy as we know it; another one of them Watergate kind of deals. And so, Iím shooting my mouth off and right in the middle of the show, Iím handed a note that says 'No no no no, the White House did not contact CNN. The White House did NOT call CNN.í So now I feel like "Oh, I guess Iím gonna do heavy time.í
"Ok, so now it gets a little confusing. So, the next day Iím told, 'Oh, No. The White House DID contact CNN. . . . They WERE contacted by the White House. They were trying to SHUT CNN up because they didnít want to make these people look ridiculous because they were big Republican fund raisers and you know, Iím going to disappear mysteriously. In about eight months, theyíll find my body in the trunk of a rental car.
"So now, weíre told, despite what everyone says. . . that this high-ranking, high placed unidentified source says, "No No The White House did call them."
Although he displayed his customary wit and joked throughout his explanation, unless Letterman's acting skills extend far beyond those displayed in Cabin Boy, there's no doubt that Letterman was serious when he asserted that "despite what everyone says" the White House was involved in this fiasco.
Meanwhile, CNN apologized and accepted the blame, letting the White House off the hook.
While the Letterman episode is a lesson in abject absurdity, nearly two years ago, Madsen and Stanton warned that following a major terrorist attack, seditious web sites would be blocked (something that is already happening to howardstern.com) and "the broadcast media would similarly be required to air only that which has been approved by government censors." (How will we know the difference?)
Though it seems surreal that people are actually wagering that another terrorist attack will occur on our soil by November (and itís even more bizarre that on-air personalities are calling for the suspension of elections), the fact that this un-elected gang who barreled into power and forever changed the course of a nation, is so completely untrustworthy makes the situation even more disturbing. On Sept 11, 2003, William Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News asked, "Why donít we have the answers to these 9/11 questions?" [The Philadelphia Daily News ] before addressing a variety of concerns, which, thanks to the 9/11 commission, are finally making their way into our national consciousness. And now that another whistle blower, FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, has come forward, saying, "'I saw papers that show US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with airplanes," [The Independent ] itís clear weíve been under attack for quite some time. [BuzzFlash.com ]
But before the Madrid bombings; before Richard Clarkeís revelations; before more whistleblowers peeked out from under the muck, David Rothkopf made everything oh-so-clear. Writing about the "military officers, policymakers, scientists, researchers and others who have studied [terrorism] for a long time," he explained how the majority of experts he spoke to not only predicted that the pre-election assaults would "be greater than those of 9/11," but that any act of terrorism would work in the President's favor. "It was the sense of the group that such an attack was likely to generate additional support for President Bush," he wrote.
Citing how "assaults before major votes have [traditionally] benefited candidates who were seen as tougher on terrorists," Rothkopf catalogued events in Israel, Russia, Turkey and Sri Lanka before explaining the symbiotic relationship between terrorists and hardliners. "So why would [terrorists] want to help [hardliners] win?" he asked. "Perhaps because terrorists see the attacks as a win-win. They can lash out against their perceived enemies and empower the hard-liners, who in turn empower them as terrorists. How? Hard-liners strike back more broadly, making it easier for terrorists as they attempt to justify their causes and their methods."
William Safireís and David Rothkopf's and three out of four experts' speculations aside, there are those who believe that the Bible predicts the ultimate battle between good and evil and that George Bush is doing Godís work. But then again, the Bible also says that "the truth will make you free."
And according to Bible Code author Michael Drosnin, there is another, more mystical way to look at Biblical text, and he contends that the Bible also predicts, you guessed it, that there will be another terrorist attack in America in 2004.
Personally, I donít give much credence to predictions, but when this many people peer into the crystal ball and see Al Qaeda gearing up for our presidential election, I take note -- especially given whatís transpired since the last stolen election. [EricBlumrich.com ]
So, what the heck. If others can do it, I can, too. So Iíll go out on a limb and make a prediction of my own: If the truth continues to seep out about the way the Bush administration has failed us, suspending the election may be the only way Bush can win.
My darkest fear is that G.W.'s handlers believe this, too.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
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