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Friday, December 31, 2004

Think Again: Bush’s Foreign Policy

By Melvyn P. Leffler
Foreign Policy
September/October 2004

Not since Richard Nixon’s conduct of the war in Vietnam has a U.S. president’s foreign policy so polarized the country—and the world. Yet as controversial as George W. Bush’s policies have been, they are not as radical a departure from his predecessors as both critics and supporters proclaim. Instead, the real weaknesses of the president’s foreign policy lie in its contradictions: Blinded by moral clarity and hamstrung by its enormous military strength, the United States needs to rebalance means with ends if it wants to forge a truly effective grand strategy.

“George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy Is Revolutionary”

No. Bush’s goals of sustaining a democratic peace and disseminating America’s core values resonate with the most traditional themes in U.S. history. They hearken back to Puritan rhetoric of a city upon a hill. They rekindle Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an empire of liberty. They were integral to Woodrow Wilson’s missive that “the world must be made safe for democracy.” They flow from Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms. They echo the noble rhetoric of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, to “oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Nor is unilateralism new. From America’s inception as a republic, the Founding Fathers forswore entangling alliances that might embroil the fragile country in dangerous Old World controversies and tarnish the United States’ identity as an exceptionalist nation. Acting unilaterally, the United States could prudently pursue its own interests, nurture its fundamental ideals, and define itself in opposition to its European forbears. This tradition is the one to which Bush returns.

Critics argue that Bush’s “revolutionary” foreign policy repudiates the multilateralism that flowered after World War II and that served the United States so well during the Cold War. These critics have a point, albeit one that should not be exaggerated. The wise men of the Cold War embraced collective security, forged NATO, created a host of other multilateral institutions, and grasped the interdependence of the modern global economy. Nonetheless, they never repudiated the right to act alone. Although they reserved the option to move unilaterally, they did not declare it as a doctrine. They did precisely the opposite. Publicly, they affirmed the U.S. commitment to collective security and multilateralism; privately, they acknowledged that the United States might have to act unilaterally, as it more or less did in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Third World.

The differences between Bush and his predecessors have more to do with style than substance, more to do with the balance between competing strategies than with goals, with the exercise of good judgment than with the definition of a worldview. The perception of great threat and the possession of unprecedented power have tipped the balance toward unilateralism, but there is nothing revolutionary in Bush’s goals or vision. The U.S. quest for an international order based on freedom, self-determination, and open markets has changed astonishingly little.

“The Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War Is Unprecedented”

Wrong. Preemptive strikes to eliminate threats are a strategy nearly as old as the United States. Securing the nation’s frontiers in its formative decades often required anticipatory action. When, for example, Gen. Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida in 1818, attacked Indian tribes, executed two Englishmen, and ignited an international crisis, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams told the Spanish ambassador that Spain’s failure to preserve order along the borderlands justified preemptive American action.

More overtly, President Theodore Roosevelt announced in 1904 that the United States would intervene in the Western Hemisphere to uphold civilization. Otherwise, he warned, the Europeans would deploy their navies to the hemisphere, seize national customs houses, and endanger U.S. security. Decades later, another president named Roosevelt renounced his distant cousin’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine and declared a Good Neighbor Policy. But Franklin Roosevelt did not eschew the preventive use of force. After war erupted in Europe, he deemed it essential to supply the European democracies with munitions and food. When Nazi submarines attacked the U.S. destroyer Greer in September 1941, Roosevelt distorted the circumstances surrounding the incident and declared, “This is the time for prevention of attack.” Thereafter, German and Italian vessels traversing waters in the North Atlantic would do so “at their own peril.” In one of his trademark fireside chats, Roosevelt explained his thinking: “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.”

During the Cold War, preventive action in the Third World was standard operating procedure. If the United States did not intervene, falling dominos would threaten U.S. security. In other words, containment and deterrence in Europe did not foreclose unilateral, preventive initiatives elsewhere. The United States took anticipatory action to deal with real and imagined threats from Central America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. In each case, policymakers employed the same rhetorical justification that Bush uses now: freedom.

Contrary to the public caricature, the Bush administration does not use preventive military action as its only—or even principal—tool. It has hesitated to act preventively in Iran and North Korea, calculating that the risks are too great. It acts selectively, much as its predecessors did. Vietnam, like Iraq, was a war of choice.

“Bush’s Policies Are a Radical Departure from Clinton’s

Lovely nostalgia. What is striking about President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy is that it actually increased U.S. military preponderance vis-à-vis the rest of the world. During the late 1990s, U.S. defense spending was higher than that of the next dozen nations combined. The overall goal, according to Clinton’s joint chiefs of staff, was to create “a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations—persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict.”

Neither liberals nor neoconservatives want to acknowledge it, but the Clinton administration also envisioned the use of unilateral, even preemptive, military power. Prior to the September 11 attacks, the last strategy paper of the Clinton administration spelled out the nation’s vital interests. “We will do what we must,” wrote the Clinton national security team, “to defend these interests. This may involve the use of military force, including unilateral action, where deemed necessary or appropriate.”

Clinton himself already had approved the use of preemptive force. In June 1995, he signed Presidential Decision Directive 39, regarding counterterrorism. Much of it remains classified, but the sanitized version is suggestive of a preemptive stance. The United States would seek to identify groups or states that “sponsor or support such terrorists, isolate them and extract a heavy price for their actions.” And responding to al Qaeda attacks against U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, Clinton authorized the bombing in Sudan of the al-Shifaa chemical plant, which was suspected of manufacturing weapons for Osama bin Laden. Some in the White House raised concerns about the legality of preemptive bombings against a civilian target in a nation that had never threatened the United States. But National Security Advisor Sandy Berger made a compelling case: “What if we do not hit it and then, after an attack, nerve gas is released in the New York City subway? What will we say then?”

President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talked nobly and worked tirelessly to preserve alliance cohesion and to enlarge NATO. Unlike Bush, they sought to contain and co-opt the mounting parochial nationalism in the United States, a nationalism that wavered between isolationism and unilateralism and that increasingly rejected international norms and conventions. But, notwithstanding these efforts, it was the Clinton administration, not Bush’s, that appointed the bipartisan U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century. This commission was chaired not by neoconservatives, but by former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart and by former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman (who is a moderate internationalist). The commission ruefully acknowledged that “the United States will increasingly find itself wishing to form coalitions but increasingly unable to find partners willing and able to carry out combined military operations.”

In short, the preemptive and unilateral use of U.S. military power was widely perceived as necessary prior to Bush’s election, even by those possessing internationalist inclinations. What Bush did after September 11 was translate an option into a national doctrine.

“September 11 Transformed the Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy”

Yes. More than that, it transformed the administration’s worldview. Prior to September 11, the Bush team prided itself on a foreign policy that embraced realism. American power, future National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice boldly declared during the 2000 presidential campaign, should not be employed for “second order” effects, such as the enhancement of humanity’s well-being. Bush argued that freedom, democracy, and peace would follow from the concerted pursuit of the United States’ “enduring national interests.” This foreign policy would reflect America’s character, “The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness.”

The changes in the Bush administration’s thinking and rhetoric after the terrorist attacks are therefore all the more striking. Heightened threat perception elevated the focus on ideals and submerged the careful calculation of interest. The overall goal of U.S. foreign policy, said the Bush strategy statement of September 2002, is to configure a balance of power favoring freedom. “Our principles,” says the strategy statement—not our interests—will “guide our government’s decisions...[T]he national security strategy of the United States must start from these core beliefs and look outward for possibilities to expand liberty.”

In times of crisis, U.S. political leaders have long asserted values and ideals to evoke public support for the mobilization of power. But this shift in language was more than mere rhetoric. The terrorist attacks against New York and Washington transformed the Bush administration’s sense of danger and impelled offensive strategies. Prior to September 11, the neocons in the administration paid scant attention to terrorism. The emphasis was on preventing the rise of peer competitors, such as China or a resurgent Russia, that could one day challenge U.S. dominance. And though the Bush team plotted regime change in Iraq, they had not committed to a full-scale invasion and nation-building project. September 11 “produced an acute sense of our vulnerability,” said Rice. “The coalition did not act in Iraq,” explained Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of WMD [weapons of mass destruction]; we acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light—through the prism of our experience on 9/11.” Having failed to foresee and prevent a terrorist attack prior to September 11, the administration’s threshold for risk was dramatically lowered, its temptation to use force considerably heightened.

“Bush’s Foreign Policy Has Inflamed Anti-Americanism Worldwide”

To be sure, anti-Americanism has plagued previous administrations. Violent demonstrations greeted Vice President Richard Nixon in various Latin American cities in 1958; so much rioting was expected in Tokyo in 1960 that President Dwight Eisenhower canceled his visit. In the late 1960s, the war in Vietnam aroused passionate anti-Americanism in Europe; so did President Ronald Reagan’s decision more than a decade later to deploy a new generation of intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

But the breadth and depth of the current anti-Americanism are unprecedented. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, favorable attitudes toward the United States in Europe plunged during the last two years, dropping from 75 percent to 58 percent in Britain, from 63 percent to 37 percent in France, and from 61 percent to 38 percent in Germany. It’s even worse in the Muslim world, where substantial majorities think the United States is overreacting to the terrorist threat and that Americans seek to dominate the world. Most worrisome of all is the reaction among “friendly” Muslim nations: 59 percent of Turks, 36 percent of Pakistanis, 27 percent of Moroccans, and 24 percent of Jordanians say that suicide bombings against Americans and Westerners are justified in Iraq.

In retrospect, these numbers are not surprising, given that heightened threat perception tempts U.S. officials to obfuscate interests and stake their policies on the universality and superiority of American values. Yet a careful calculation of interests is essential to discipline U.S. power and temper its ethnocentrism. There is no greater and sadder irony, perhaps even tragedy, that while Bush officials assert the superiority of American values, the overweening use of U.S. power breeds cynicism about its motives and distrust of its intentions. Indeed, preemption and unilateralism complicate the struggle against terrorism. Terrorism, at least in part, is spawned by feelings of revulsion against U.S. domination and by a sense of powerlessness and humiliation. Preventive wars and intrusive occupations intensify such sentiments and breed more terrorists. By elevating the hegemonic posture of the United States to official doctrine, these policies make the United States and its citizens even more attractive targets for terrorists. According to recent State Department data, terrorism is waxing, not waning.

“The Bush Administration Has the Right Strategy but Implements It Badly”

No. Strategy links means to ends, designing tactics capable of achieving goals. Bush’s foreign policy is vulnerable to criticism not because it departs radically from previous administrations, but because it cannot succeed. The goals are unachievable because the means and ends are out of sync.

Rice says the Bush administration’s strategy rests on three pillars: First, thwarting terrorists and rogue regimes; second, harmonizing relations among the great powers; third, nurturing prosperity and democracy across the globe. But the effort to crush terrorists and destroy rogue regimes through preemption, hegemony, and unilateralism shatters great power harmony and diverts resources and attention from the development agenda. An effective strategy cannot be sustained when the methods employed to erect one pillar drastically undermine the others.

Consider, for instance, Bush’s quest for a democratic peace. He says that peoples everywhere, including the Middle East, yearn for freedom and coexistence. The democratic peace theory, which postulates that democratic societies do not wage war against one another, is appealing. But the war on terrorism, as presently conceived, makes it more difficult to democratize the Arab world. Waging preventive wars requires basing rights throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. To satisfy its military needs, the United States must sign agreements with and support repressive, even heinous, regimes that despise democratic principles.

Democratizing the Middle East is a noble goal, but it is one unlikely to be achieved through unilateral initiatives and preventive war. Democratization requires far more resources, imagination, and patience than the Bush administration, or perhaps any U.S. administration, is willing to muster. The ends of Bush’s foreign policy cannot be reconciled with domestic priorities that call for lower taxes. A recent Rand Corporation study concludes that the most important determinants of a successful occupation are related to the “level of effort—measured in time, manpower, and money.” Bush’s domestic agenda simply does not allow for this level of effort, and he shows no inclination to alter his programs at home in order to effect his strategic vision abroad.

“Bush Is Reagan’s Heir”

Yes. But is that a good thing? Bush and his advisors love to identify themselves with Reagan. Bush, like Reagan, says Rumsfeld, “has not shied from calling evil by its name....” Nor has he been shy about “declaring his intention to defeat its latest incarnation—terrorism.” Moral clarity and military power, Bush believes, emboldened Reagan and enabled him to wrest the initiative from the Kremlin, liberate Eastern Europe, and win the Cold War.

Yet most scholars of that period interpret the past differently. They know that the most successful and far-reaching initiatives of the Cold War came in its early years, long before the Reagan military buildup. In 1947, President Harry Truman and his advisors grappled with agonizing trade-offs and chose to meet the Soviet threat in Europe with reconstruction rather than a massive arms buildup. They were initially guided by diplomat George F. Kennan, who warned against military thinking, overcommitments, and ideological rhetoric. He did not talk about remaking and refashioning other societies, but of containing and reducing Soviet power and invigorating U.S. domestic institutions.

In 1950, the national security document NSC-68 institutionalized the emphases on moral clarity and military prowess. Prompted by the Soviet acquisition of atomic capabilities, the onset of McCarthyism, and then the outbreak of the Korean war, NSC-68 accentuated the ideological war and accelerated the arms race. But moral clarity and ideological purity made it difficult to assess threats and understand the international environment. Blinded by ideology, U.S. officials found it difficult to discern the Sino-Soviet split and to grasp the roots of revolutionary nationalism in the Third World. In the early 1980s, moral clarity prompted Reagan to assist repressive rightist regimes in Central America. Cold War thinking encouraged him to support Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And subsequent triumphalism over the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan led Reagan’s heirs to ignore the ensuing turmoil and the emergence of a Taliban theocracy.

Nor do scholars readily agree that Reagan’s arms buildup and rhetorical pronouncements brought victory in the Cold War. In fact, the most thoughtful accounts of Reagan’s diplomacy stress that what really mattered was his surprising ability to change course, envision a world without nuclear arms, and deal realistically with a new Soviet leader. And most accounts of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s diplomacy suggest that he was motivated by a desire to reform Communism, reshape Soviet society, and revive its economy, rather than intimidated by U.S. military power. Gorbachev was inspired not by U.S. democratic capitalism but by European social democracy, not by the self-referential ideological fervor of U.S. neoconservatives, but by the careful, thoughtful, tedious work of human rights activists and other nongovernmental organizations.

Bush and his advisors seek to construct a narrative about the end of the Cold War that exalts moral clarity and glorifies the utility of military power. Moral clarity doubtless helps a democratic, pluralistic society like the United States reconcile its differences and conduct policy. Military power, properly configured and effectively deployed, chastens and deters adversaries. But this mindset can lead to arrogance and abuse of power. To be effective, moral clarity and military power must be harnessed to a careful calculation of interest and a shrewd understanding of the adversary. Only when ends are reconciled with means can moral clarity and military power add up to a winning strategy.

Melvyn P. Leffler is Edward Stettinius professor of American history at the University of Virginia. He is the author of the prizewinning history of the early Cold War A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992).



Think Again: Middle East Democracy

By Marina Ottaway, Thomas Carothers
Foreign Policy
December 2004

People in the Middle East want political freedom, and their governments acknowledge the need for reform. Yet the region appears to repel democracy. Arab regimes only concede women’s rights and elections to appease their critics at home and abroad. If democracy arrives in the Middle East, it won’t be due to the efforts of liberal activists or their Western supporters but to the very same Islamist parties that many now see as the chief obstacle to change.

“The Middle East Is the Last Holdout Against the Global Democratic Trend”

No. The Middle East is on the wrong side of the global democratic divide, but unfortunately it does not lack company. As Russia slides into authoritarianism, the former Soviet Union is becoming a democratic wasteland with only a few shaky pockets of pluralism, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Central Asia is no better off than the Arab world in terms of democracy. A depressingly large swath of East and Southeast Asia—from North Korea and China down through Vietnam, Laos, and Burma to Malaysia and Singapore—is a democracy-free zone that shows few signs of change.

Nor was the Middle East immune to the “Third Wave,” the decisive expansion of democracy that started in southern Europe and Latin America 30 years ago and subsequently spread to other parts of the world. During the 1980s, several Arab countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan, initiated political reforms to permit multiparty competition. These reforms lost momentum or were undone in the 1990s, however, as Arab leaders proved unwilling to risk their own power through genuine processes of democratization. Tunisia, for example, moved back to rigid authoritarian rule.

Today, political reform is percolating again in the region, amid growing public frustration over chronic corruption, poor socioeconomic performance, and a pervasive sense of stagnation. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also created pressure for reform—from both the United States and some Arabs who began to question why their societies were so widely viewed as dangerous political cesspools. Talk about political reform and democracy is rife even in the Gulf monarchies where such issues had been taboo. The steps taken thus far in most countries, however, are modest. Although the Arab world is not impervious to political change, it has yet to truly begin the process of democratization.

“Democracy in the Middle East Is Impossible Until the Arab-Israeli Conflict Is Resolved”

Wrong. Arab governments curb political participation, manipulate elections, and limit freedom of expression because they do not want their power challenged, not because tension with Israel requires draconian social controls. When the government of Kuwait refuses to give women the right to vote, it does so out of deference to the most conservative elements of its population, not out of fear that voting women will undermine the country’s security. Fear of competition, not of a Zionist plot, leads the Egyptian ruling party to oppose competitive presidential elections. When it comes to democratic reform, the Zionist threat is merely a convenient excuse.

Yet failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict prevents the United States from gaining credibility as an advocate of democracy in the Middle East. Liberal Arabs perceive claims by the United States that it wants democracy in the Middle East as hypocritical, pointing to what they see as American indifference to the rights of the Palestinians and unconditional support for Israel. For their part, many Arab governments do not take U.S. pressure to democratize their region seriously, believing that the need for oil and fear of upsetting regimes that recognize Israel will trump Washington’s desire for democratic change. U.S. credibility in the Middle East will not be restored—and the unprecedented level of anti-American resentment will not abate—until the United States makes a serious, balanced effort to tackle the conflict. Without such credibility, Washington’s effort to stimulate democratization in the region will be severely constrained.

“The United States Wants Democracy in the Middle East”

Up to a point. The democratic transformation of the Middle East emerged as a central objective of U.S. foreign policy during the Bush administration. This new policy is a sharp reversal of several decades of steadfast support for many autocratic regimes in the region, such as those in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. It reflects the new post-9/11 conventional wisdom that Middle East democracy is the best antidote to Islamist terrorism.

Although this desire for democracy may be heartfelt, the United States has a lengthy laundry list of other priorities in the region: access to oil, cooperation and assistance on counterterrorism, fostering peace between Israel and its neighbors, stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and preventing Islamist radicals from seizing power.

The newfound U.S. enthusiasm for democracy competes for a place in this mix. Fighting Islamist militants and safeguarding oil still compels the United States to cooperate with authoritarian regimes. People in the region watched as the United States took a tough line against Iran and Syria while failing to push Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, or other friendly tyrants very hard. The Bush administration launched new diplomatic endeavors and aid programs to support positive change, such as the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative and the Middle East Partnership Initiative. But they consist of mild, gradual measures designed to promote democratic change without unduly challenging the authority of incumbent governments.

Moreover, despite the president’s conviction that democratic change in the Middle East is necessary, a great deal of ambivalence remains within the U.S. policy bureaucracy about the prospect of any rapid political openings in the region. This sentiment is particularly true of the State Department and the intelligence community. Some experts worry that, given the political mood of most Arab citizens—who are angry at the United States and sympathetic to political Islam—free and open elections could result in some distinctly unfriendly regimes.

“The War in Iraq Advanced the Cause of Democracy in the Middle East”

Not yet. The U.S.-led war in Iraq removed from power one of the most heinous, repressive dictators in the region and opened up the possibility that Iraq will one day have a pluralistic political system held together by consensus rather than violence. The actual achievement of democracy in Iraq, however, remains distant and uncertain. The path to that goal will be measured in years rather than months.

The war’s political effects in the rest of the region—especially the way it exposed the hollowness of Saddam Hussein’s regime—has contributed to increased calls for political reform in many Arab countries. Real progress toward democracy, however, is minimal. In addition, the war provoked some Arab governments, such as Egypt, to limit the already constrained political space they allow as a defensive gesture against public protests and as an excuse for prosecuting opponents.

Regrettably, President George W. Bush’s repeated justification of the war as a democratizing mission has discredited some Western-oriented Arab democrats in the eyes of their fellow citizens. Many Arabs have come to view democracy itself as a code word for U.S. regional domination. The unpopularity of the war and the abuses against Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison have further tarnished the reputation of the United States and fueled Islamist extremism.

Proponents of democratic contagion argue that if Iraq holds successful elections in early 2005, this example will resound loudly in the Arab world. But much of the Arab world will likely view such elections, even if they come off well, as highly flawed. Some parts of the predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq are not expected to participate in the elections, and many Arabs will inevitably accuse the United States of manipulation, because the elections will be held under U.S. occupation. Few Arabs will be dazzled into holding a new view of democracy on the basis of one election. Many countries in the region already hold elections of varying degrees of seriousness and importance, including one in Algeria earlier this year, which a Western observer described as “one of the best conducted elections, not just in Algeria, but in Africa and much of the Arab world.”

Promoting democracy throughout the Middle East will require doing away with fantasies of a sudden U.S.-led transformation of the region and taking seriously the challenge of building credibility with Arab societies. Moreover, if the United States is to play a constructive supporting role, it must seriously revise its cozy relations with autocratic regimes, show a sustained ability to apply nuanced diplomatic pressure for political change at key junctures, and back up this pressure with well-crafted and well-funded assistance. Washington must prepare to accept emboldened political forces, and eventually new governments, that are uninterested in doing the United States’ bidding. Embracing Middle East democracy in principle is easy; truly supporting it remains an enormous challenge.

“Islamists Are the Main Obstacle to Arab Democracy”

Think again. The standard fear is the “one person, one vote, one time” scenario: Islamists would only participate in elections to win power and put an end to democracy immediately. Hence, the argument goes, they should not be allowed to participate.

True, the commitment to democracy of even moderate Islamists is uncertain and hedged by the caveat that democratic governments must accept Islamic law. However, the chances of an overwhelming electoral victory that would allow Islamists to abrogate all freedoms at once is remote in the Arab world. During the last decade, Islamist parties and candidates have participated in elections in eight Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, and Yemen), always with modest results. (These elections suffered from various degrees of government interference, but there is no indication that the Islamists would have won in a more open environment.) And Turkey, a country where an Islamist party took power with a large majority, is becoming an encouraging example of democratic success.

Although the prediction that Islamist electoral victories would lead to democracy’s demise in the Middle East have so far proved unfounded, the possibility cannot be ruled out. Fear of such takeovers remains in many Arab countries and the United States. Many Arab regimes use this fear to justify meddling in elections and placing restrictions on political participation. The presence of Islamist parties thus complicates the process of democratization.

But Islamist parties are also integral to democratization because they are the only nongovernmental parties with large constituencies. Without their participation, democracy is impossible in the Middle East. The future of democracy in the region depends on whether a sufficient number of such parties moderate their political views and become actors in a democratic process, rather than spoilers in the present autocratic states, and whether incumbent governments stop hiding behind the Islamist threat and accept that all their citizens have a right to participate.

“Arab Countries Have a Historic Propensity Toward Authoritarianism”

Yes. But so what? Most societies have lived under authoritarian rule for some time, often for a long time. Democracy is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. Even in the United States and Europe it was only consolidated through universal suffrage in the last century.

Arab rulers have been highly authoritarian, but no more so than European or Asian rulers for most of history. Arabs developed a political system based on Islam through the caliph, an individual who served as supreme leader of all Muslims. Europeans clung to the concept of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries after it ceased to exist in practice, fought ferocious religious wars for hundreds of years, and adopted the concept of separation of church and state rather late and incompletely. The Arab world, for most of its history, was quite similar to the rest of the world.

Even in the 1960s and 1970s, much of the Arab world was highly representative of the major political trends of the day. Most Arab countries outside the Gulf displayed the combination of nationalism and socialism that constituted typical Third World ideology at the time. Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, alongside Jawaharlal Nehru in India and Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, was a major champion of this ideology, which waned in the 1980s with the end of the Cold War and the rise of globally connected economies.

To ascribe the lingering Arab absence of democracy to some unique historic affinity for authoritarianism, stemming from Arab culture, Islam, or anything else is thus factually incorrect. It is also politically defeatist, attributing a quality of inevitability that belies the experience of political change in other parts of the world.

“Promoting Women’s Rights Is Crucial for Democratic Change”

False. This myth, a favorite of women’s organizations and Western governments, reflects the combination of correct observation and false logic. No country can be considered fully democratic if a part of its population (in some cases, the majority) is discriminated against and denied equal rights. But efforts to change the status quo by promoting women’s rights are premature. The main problem at present is that Arab presidents and kings have too much power, which they refuse to share with citizens and outside institutions. This stranglehold on power must be broken to make progress toward democracy. Greater equality for women does nothing to diminish the power of overly strong, authoritarian governments.

Arab leaders know this truth all too well. Many autocrats implement policies to improve women’s rights precisely to give themselves reformist credentials and score points with Western governments, media outlets, and nongovernmental organizations. These efforts, however, often amount to a trick of smoke and mirrors designed to disguise the governments’ refusal to cede any real power. In the last few years, several Arab states have appointed women to high positions and hurriedly implemented or proposed reforms concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other personal status issues. These are welcome steps, but they do not address the core issue of promoting democracy: breaking the authoritarian pattern of Arab politics.

“Arab Democrats Are the Key to Reform”

Paradoxically, no. All Arab countries boast a small number of Westernized liberals who advocate respect for human rights, freedom of thought and speech, and democratic change. But democratic transformation requires more than the ideological commitment of a few individuals. In Western societies, a small democratic cadre sufficed in the distant past, when political participation was the preserve of public-minded intellectual elites and wealthy property owners. But the Arab world of today is not the United States or Europe of the 18th century. The political elite faces a growing challenge by Islamist movements, which are developing a popular support base. As a result, democratic transformation also requires broad-based political parties and movements capable of transforming abstract democratic ideals into concrete programs that resonate with a public whose main concern is survival.

Arab democrats have so far shown little capacity—and less inclination—to translate abstract ideas into programs with mass appeal. Because they talk to Western organizations and each other more than to their fellow citizens, opposition political parties with a liberal agenda find themselves unable to build broad constituencies. This failure leaves the field open to government parties, which can build a following on the basis of patronage, and to Islamist parties, which build their following in the best tradition of mass parties, with a mixture of ideological fervor and grassroots social services.

Government repression and, at times, co-optation have also undermined Arab democrats’ effectiveness. Some regimes—notably Saudi Arabia’s—move quickly to clamp down on any nascent liberal debate. Others are more tolerant, giving liberals some intellectual space to write and discuss issues openly, as long as their talk is not followed by action. Arab democrats in countries such as Egypt are not a persecuted group. Rather, they tend to be professionals comfortably ensconced in the upper-middle class. Therefore, they are hesitant to demand genuine reforms that might lead to a hard-line takeover and content to advocate democratization from the top.

Under such conditions, it would be a serious mistake for U.S. and European democracy advocates to focus on Arab democrats as the key to political change. These individuals will play a role if democracy becomes a reality. But during this period of transition, they have neither the inclination to push for reform nor the political clout to do so successfully.

“Middle East Democracy Is the Cure for Islamist Terrorism”

This view is rooted in a simplistic assumption: Stagnant, repressive Arab regimes create positive conditions for the growth of radical Islamist groups, which turn their sights on the United States because it embodies the liberal sociopolitical values that radical Islamists oppose. More democracy, therefore, equals less extremism.

History tells a different story. Modern militant Islam developed with the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s, during the most democratic period in that country’s history. Radical political Islam gains followers not only among repressed Saudis but also among some Muslims in Western democracies, especially in Europe. The emergence of radical Islamist groups determined to wreak violence on the United States is thus not only the consequence of Arab autocracy. It is a complex phenomenon with diverse roots, which include U.S. sponsorship of the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s (which only empowered Islamist militants); the Saudi government’s promotion of radical Islamic educational programs worldwide; and anger at various U.S. policies, such as the country’s stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the basing of military forces in the region.

Moreover, democracy is not a cure-all for terrorism. Like it or not, the most successful efforts to control radical Islamist political groups have been antidemocratic, repressive campaigns, such as those waged in Tunisia, Egypt, and Algeria in the 1990s. The notion that Arab governments would necessarily be more effective in fighting extremists is wishful thinking, no matter how valuable democratization might be for other reasons.

The experience of countries in different regions makes clear that terrorist groups can operate for sustained periods even in successful democracies, whether it is the Irish Republican Army in Britain or the ETA (Basque separatists) in Spain. The ETA gained strength during the first two decades of Spain’s democratization process, flourishing more than it had under the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. In fragile democratic states—as new Arab democracies would likely be for years—radical groups committed to violence can do even more harm, often for long periods, as evidenced by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, or the Maoist rebels in Nepal.

Marina Ottawayis a senior associate at the Democracy and Rule of Law Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Thomas Carothers is the author of Aiding Democracy Abroad (Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1999) and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment.



Sunday, December 26, 2004

"God Is With Us": Hitler's Rhetoric and the Lure of "Moral Values"

by Maureen Farrell

"God does not make cowardly nations free." -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

A couple weeks ago, while asserting that the Founding Founders intended for the U.S. government to be infused with Christianity, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Holocaust was able to flourish in Germany because of Europe's secular ways. "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America?" Scalia asked a congregation at Manhattan's Shearith Israel synagogue. "I don't think so."

One might expect regular citizens to be ignorant of history, but a Supreme Court Justice? Does he imagine that the phrase "Gott mit Uns" was a German clothier's interpretation of "Got Milk"?

If photographic evidence of the Third Reich's Christian leanings were not enough, Hitler's own speeches and writings prove, at the very least, that he presented many of the same faith-based arguments heard in America today. Religion in the schools? Hitler was for it. Intellectuals who practiced "anti-Christian, smug individualism"?

According to Hitler, their days were numbered. Divine Providence's role in shaping Germany's ultimate victory? Who could argue? In other words, there is enough historical evidence to color Scalia deluded. Writing for Free Inquiry, John Patrick Michael Murphy explained:
"Hitler's Germany amalgamated state with church.

Soldiers of the vermacht wore belt buckles inscribed with the following: "Gott mit uns" (God is with us). His troops were often sprinkled with holy water by the priests. It was a real Christian country whose citizens were indoctrinated by both state and church and blindly followed all authority figures, political and ecclesiastical.
Hitler, like some of the today's politicians and preachers, politicized "family values." He liked corporeal punishment in home and school. Jesus prayers became mandatory in all schools under his administration.

While abortion was illegal in pre-Hitler Germany, he took it to new depths of enforcement, requiring all doctors to report to the government the circumstances of all miscarriages. He openly despised homosexuality and criminalized it."

For anyone wanting even more proof, Mein Kampf is chock full of the Fuhrer's musings on God. ("I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord," Hitler wrote). But anti-Semitic rants aside, some of Hitler's religious musings are interchangeable with Mr. Bush's.

Hitler was raised a Catholic and spoke of his faith in God, yet, singling out his rants against religion, politicians and pastors continue to characterize him as a pagan barbarian. Such distortions are convenient -- particularly in an age where propaganda concerning "moral values" is readily gobbled up and Christian nation legislation waits in the wings -- but, to paraphrase the Bible, overlooking the truth will not make us free.

Scalia, who also cited the Bible to claim that government "derives its moral authority from God," is hardly alone in his assertions. Leo Strauss, the philosopher who has influenced neoconservativism, and by proxy, George Bush's America, felt that religion, like deception, was crucial to maintaining social order. Meanwhile, neoconservative kingpin Irving Kristol has argued similar points -- bragging about how easy it is to fool the public into accepting the government's actions while arguing that America's Founding Fathers were wrong to insist on the separation of church and state. Why? According to Jim Lobe, it's because religion, as Strauss and his disciples see it, is "absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control."

Saying that neoconservatives believe that secular society is undesirable "because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats," Lobe explained why Kristol and other neocons have "allied themselves with the Christian Right" and, in some cases, have also denounced Darwin's theory of evolution. "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers," Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey explained, pointing to publications like Commentary which has espoused the virtues of religious fundamentalism and has questioned evolutionary science.

(Hitler did the same. The book The German Churches Under Hitler includes his assertion that secular schools should not be tolerated while Hitler's Table Talk quotes him questioning the wisdom in teaching children both creationism and the theory of evolution. "The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution,"he said. "Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall.")

Professor Shadia B. Drury also noted the similarities between the methods endorsed by Hitler and neoconservatives' favorite philosopher. She explained:
"Strauss loved America enough to try to save her from the errors and terrors of Europe. He was convinced that the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic led to the rise of the Nazis. That is a debatable matter. But Strauss did not openly debate this issue or provide arguments for his position in his writings. I am inclined to think that it is Strauss's ideas, and not liberal ideas, that invite the kinds of abuses he wished to avoid. It behooves us to remember that Hitler had the utmost contempt for parliamentary democracy. He was impatient with debate and dispute, on the grounds that they were a waste of time for the great genius who knew instinctively the right choices and policies that the people need. Hitler had a profound contempt for the masses - the same contempt that is readily observed in Strauss and his cohorts. But when force of circumstances made it necessary to appeal to the masses, Hitler advocated lies, myths, and illusions as necessary pabulum to placate the people and make them comply with the will of the Fuhrer. Strauss's political philosophy advocates the same solution to the problem of the recalcitrant masses. Anyone who wants to avoid the horrors of the Nazi past is well advised not to accept Strauss's version of ancient wisdom uncritically. But this is exactly what Strauss encouraged his students to do."

Although several others, including the legendary Seymour Hersh, have noted the neoconservatives' belief that deception is essential, the religious aspect of their philosophy is especially unnerving. Religion may be the opium of the masses, but when zealots become so certain of their own righteousness that they ignore their own humanity, horror is the natural consequence. Islamic extremism offers the most glaring recent example, and now that Osama bin Laden has been granted permission to nuke America, the most extreme changes within the U.S. could very well come from the outside world.

In the meantime, however, for those who have not yet noticed, our own homegrown zealots -- those who advocate hatred in the name of the Lord -- have made considerable headway, with gays and lesbians currently at the center of legislation which, should it pass, will alter this country forever.

When the Marriage Protection Act passed the House in July, the New York Times called it "a radical assault on the Constitution. "If it passes in the Senate, the bill could obliterate the separation of powers and wipe out Constitutional protections for all minorities, stripping the courts and possibly paving the way for Christian nationhood. Other pieces of court stripping legislation bills designed to topple the wall between church and state are also in play.

This encroaching infusion of church and state, combined with recent decrees concerning moral values, doesn't resonate with inclusive tolerance. "When was the last time a Western nation had a leader so obsessed with God and claiming God was on our side? If you answered Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany, you're correct," Bob Fitrakis wrote. "Nothing can be more misleading than to categorize Hitler as a barbaric pagan or Godless totalitarian, like Stalin."

While many of us reserve a soft spot for true Christian generosity and the warm teachings of Jesus, it's important to remember that Christianity can be (and has been) distorted for darker purposes. Whether you're talking about Nazi Germany, the pre-Civil War American South, or the atmosphere in the U.S. these past few years, whenever questions of conscience are vigorously denounced, you can bet there is trouble ahead -- and the hijacking of faith and the manipulation of religion should always arouse suspicion. Moral values as a mandate? What better way to foster civil obedience and "One nation Under God" unity in a time of preventative war, suppressed liberty and sanctioned torture.

So, yes, despite tales of Hitler's atheism and Germany's Godlessness, the list of Hitler's religious assertions and Nazi Christian affiliations is long, and before Americans swallow more WMD-type baloney, it's best to comprehend this history and understand that no nation, including our own, is immune to faith-based fascism.
Substituting "America" for "Germany," many of Hitler's religious assertions could have been uttered by Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson -- with Hitler even asserting that God punished Germany for turning away from Him -- before promising that renewed piety would protect the Fatherland and make it prosperous and successful once more. "Once the mercy of God shown upon us, but we were not worthy of His mercy. Providence withdrew its protection and our people fell, fell as scarcely any other people heretofore. In this deep misery we again learned to pray," Hitler said in 1936, sixty-five years before Falwell and Robertson blamed abortionists and feminists for the tragedies of Sept. 11.

Hitler's religious phrases could have also come from the lips of George W. Bush. "Our prayer is: Lord God, let us never hesitate, let us never play the coward, let us never forget the duty which we have taken upon us,"Hitler said in March, 1933, sounding much like our president, who believes that God wants him to liberate the people in Middle East -- even if he has to torture, maim and kill tens of thousands in the process. "I believe we have a duty to free people," Bush told Bob Woodward. "I would hope we wouldn't have to do it militarily, but we have a duty.. . . Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. . . ."

Speaking in Berlin in March, 1936, Hitler said something remarkably similar. "I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people to be allowed to wage this battle for Germany," he said, before launching the preventive war heard round the world.

Both leaders also promised peace while planning for war. "We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended," Bush said, in his State of the Union address in Jan. 2003, two months before launching a preventative war in Iraq. "Never in these long years have we offered any other prayer but this: Lord, grant to our people peace at home, and grant and preserve to them peace from the foreign foe!"Hitler said in Nuremberg on Sept. 13, 1936.

Yes, many of Hitler's faith-based comments could have come from George Bush himself, and are undoubtedly the kinds of sentiments many Americans not only agree with -- but take comfort in. This is not to say that Bush is Hitler or that religion is evil, but to serve as a reminder that things are not always what they seem. Christianity was used to justify everything from the Salem witch trials to slavery in America, and facilitated group-think in Germany -- when individuality and questions of conscience were needed the most. These are but a few of the Fuhrer's assertions:
"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith." (The German Churches Under Hitler, p.241)

"We must turn all the sentiments of the Volk, all its thinking, acting, even its beliefs, away from the anti-Christian, smug individualism of the past, from the egotism and stupid Phariseeism of personal arrogance, and we must educate the youth in particular in the spirit of those of Christ's words that we must interpret anew: love one another; be considerate of your fellow man; remember that each one of you is not alone a creature of God, but that you are all brothers! This youth will, with loathing and contempt, abandon those hypocrites who have Christ on their lips but the devil in their hearts." (Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, page 140)

"It will be the Government's care to maintain honest cooperation between Church and State; the struggle against materialistic views and for a real national community is just as much in the interest of the German nation as in that of the welfare of our Christian faith." (At the Reichstag, March 23, 1933)

"Without pledging ourselves to any particular Confession [Protestantism or Catholicism], we have restored to faith its prerequisites because we were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." (Berlin, Oct. 24, 1933)

"But there is something else I believe, and that is that there is a God. . . . And this God again has blessed our efforts during the past 13 years." (Munich, Feb. 24, 1940)

"You [blue-collar workers] represent the most noble of slogans known to us: "God helps those who help themselves!' (Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations, Vol. 2, page 1147)

"Fifteen years ago I had nothing save my faith and my will. Today the Movement is Germany, today this Movement has won the German nation and formed the Reich. Would that have been possible without the blessing of the Almighty? Or do they who ruined Germany wish to maintain that they have had God's blessing? What we are we are, not against but with the will of Providence. And so long as we are loyal, honest, and ready to fight, so long as we believe in our great work and do not capitulate, we shall also in the future have the blessing of Providence." (Rosenheim, Aug. 11, 1935)

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. . . As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people." (Munich, April 12, 1922)

"If positive Christianity means love of one's neighbor, i.e. the tending of the sick, the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the giving of drink to those who are thirsty, then it is we who are the more positive Christians. For in these spheres the community of the people of National Socialist Germany has accomplished a prodigious work." (Feb. 24, 1939)

"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." (Berlin, Oct. 24, 1933)

"An educated man retains the sense of the mysteries of nature and bows before the unknowable. An educated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal)." (Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944, page 59)

In his book, They Thought They Were Free, Milton Mayer interviewed Germans who discussed how their society changed right before their eyes, and how, despite Hitler's rhetoric, God was nowhere to be found. As one interviewee put it:
"The world you live in -- "your nation, your people" -- is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way."

Of course, America has hardly "gone all the way" and is unlikely to become as psychotic as Nazi Germany any time soon. But what do you suppose God thinks of preventative war based upon deception? Or about the use of depleted uranium? Or about dropping napalm on civilians? Are Iraqi insurgents are any less certain that God is on their side than our own Evangelical Marines?

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug, but why do so many insist on forgetting that the U.S. helped him to power in the first place? Does God see our role in all of this as lightly as we do? And how many U.S. citizens do you know, who, mired in fear, readily dismiss America's use of torture and rationalize our disregard for international law? What else might they overlook?

In 1937, Hitler said that because of Germany's belief in God and God's favoritism towards Germany, the country would prevail and prosper. "We, therefore, go our way into the future with the deepest belief in God. Would all we have achieved been possible had Providence not helped us? I know that the fruits of human labor are hard-won and transitory if they are not blessed by the Omnipotent. Work such as ours which has received the blessings of the Omnipotent can never again be undone by mere mortals,"he said.

While attempting to solidify his power, Hitler also denounced those who denounced religion -- as if he were talking about Hollywood or blue states or Noam Chomsky. "For eight months we have been conducting a fearless campaign against that Communism which is threatening our entire nation, our culture, our art, and our public morals, "Hitler said in a speech in Oct. 1933. "We have made an end of denials of the Deity and the crying down of religion."

There will be no more crying down of religion in George Bush's America, either. Though oft-repeated assertions made by the media in the immediate aftermath of the election have proven to be nothing more than myth, propagandists would have you believe that the American people have spoken: "Moral values" reign supreme.

But how can any one of us know God's desires -- especially when our enemies claim to have God on their side as well? And doesn't it seem that religious hubris -- believing that God sanctions one's own inhumane treatment of others -- always invites a fall?

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever," Thomas Jefferson said, of the price America would eventually pay for slavery. "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions," Ulysses S. Grant advised, describing karmic retribution without pointing hateful fingers at lesbians.

And long before that, the poet John Milton tried to "justify the ways of God to Man." But yet, the world, with its conflicting visions of morality, ethics and truth, still struggles to comprehend.

Perhaps Truth, for want of a better definition, is what God sees when he looks at any given situation. And perhaps it is ultimately impossible for us to know God's mind. After all, it's obvious that Hitler wasn't telling the truth when he spoke of God and country -- and by the same token, it's difficult to look at Najaf or Fallujah or Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay and see God's hand in any of it.

After one of Bush's operatives promised to "export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation" Bob Woodward wrote: "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan." And sure enough, when Woodward asked Bush if he had discussed the impending invasion of Iraq with his father, President George H.W. Bush (who could have offered sage advice), the President responded: "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength; there is a higher father that I appeal to."

But, without knowing God's mind, most of us have only History to help us judge. And the fact is, without the benefit of History, some of the "moral values" Hitler embraced sound eerily like those being peddled today.
George Bush is not Hitler. America is not Nazi Germany. But buying into religious assertions or thinking that God is on your side is not wise when it comes to matters of war -- particularly when that war is an aggressive preventative war based on false premises and assumptions.

So, aside from Jerry Falwell, who speaks with hate-filled authority, most of us do not know how God will judge us. We will have to settle for History's imperfect record.

All of this begs the question, however. Given his assertions regarding God's role in helping him decide policy ("I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible" Bush told Woodward. . . "I felt so strongly that [invading Iraq] was the right thing to do") how does Bush view the more mundane, secular implications of his actions? When asked by Woodward how History would judge the war in Iraq, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

I challenge anyone to find the moral value in that.



Saturday, December 25, 2004

To Fix Venezuela, Ex-Guerrillas Want To Make 'New Man'

'Visible Hand', Ex-Guerrillas to Fix Venezuela, want to make 'New Man' Grand Utopian Experiment, To be Funded by Oil Money; This will be a Boost to Chávez's Power, A Job for a Former Kidnapper.

By JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA Staff Reporter
December 24, 2004

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Trying to foment a Communist revolution here in 1976, Carlos Lanz and five other men kidnapped an American executive, who then spent much of the next 3.5 years chained to a tree in the jungle. The revolution didn't arrive and Mr. Lanz went to prison for military rebellion.

Thanks to Venezuela's fiery president, Hugo Chávez, Mr. Lanz is getting a second go at revolution in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter. Buoyed by oil billions and back-to-back electoral victories, Mr. Chávez recently gave the ex-guerrilla a new job: devising a plan for economic self-sufficiency in which selfless workers would labor contentedly in utopian cooperatives. Mr. Lanz says he wants to create nothing less than Venezuela's "New Man."

"We are talking about the transformation of man's attitudes," says Mr. Lanz, now 60 years old, during an interview in his office high above the armies of peddlers who bivouac in Caracas's decaying city center. Among his goals: having Venezuelans eschew Pepsis and Big Macs for sugar-cane juice and Venezuelan-style pancakes called cachapas.

Chávez officials say they are creating "endogenous" development, borrowing a term that economists use to describe a process that comes from within an economy, as opposed to, say, changes brought about by globalization. In Venezuela, this is often overlaid with Marxist rhetoric and signals the presence of a heavy state hand running an economy walled off from international competition -- the kind of development most Latin American nations rejected as unworkable in the 1990s. If Venezuela's ambitious experiment collapses, the ensuing instability could shake the region and global oil markets.

Hugo Moyer, the official in charge of endogenization at the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, calls the policy "development from within, with materials from within, by those within for those within."

To accomplish that goal, the Chávez government is plowing billions of dollars into new programs, called "missions," which act as social welfare agencies. Mostly financed by the PDVSA and run by a hodgepodge of bureaucratic offices, the missions are largely devoted to health-care education and jobs training. They exist as a sort of parallel government and are controlled by Mr. Chávez. The missions provide hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans with monthly stipends to learn everything from reading and writing to setting up cooperative farms. Mr. Chávez plans to combine the dozen or so existing missions into a mega project dubbed "Mission Cristo," or Christ's Mission, which he proclaims will end poverty in Venezuela by 2021.

The programs are a hit among Venezuela's poor and are helping solidify Mr. Chávez's political base. Mr. Chávez has made a political career exacerbating Venezuela's bitter social divisions. Despite the country's oil wealth, about 61% of the people survive on less than $2 a day, according to a survey by the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas.

Mr. Chávez's critics charge that his programs cost PDVSA billions of dollars needed to keep up oil production. Analysts say production has fallen to about 2.6 million barrels a day from about three million in the aftermath of a devastating strike that ended last year. The government disputes that estimate. Mr. Chávez's program, detractors say, will produce subsidy-dependent enterprises that compete unfairly with private Venezuelan companies and foreign firms. They add that Mr. Chávez's tendency to throw money at Venezuela's deep-rooted social problems is unlikely to provide lasting solutions.

Government and private business have been at each other's throats since shortly after Mr. Chávez took office in 1999. The mercurial Mr. Chávez loves to excoriate his mostly middle-class opposition -- from small shop owners to matrons -- as "oligarchs." He regularly lays into the U.S., which is Venezuela's biggest customer for oil and also the source of most of its imports.

After the oil strike, opponents organized a recall referendum on Aug. 15. Mr. Chávez won the poll by a large margin, amid claims the voting was rigged. Earlier, he survived a short-lived coup. The constant strife has battered Venezuela's economy, which has lost 2.5 million jobs in the last five years. "He is the anti-Midas," says Heinz Sonntag, the former head of the Central University of Venezuela's economic development center. "He turns gold into dung." Thanks to sky high oil prices and a spurt in government spending, Venezuela's economy is expected to grow as much as 16% in 2004 after falling sharply in recent years.

PDVSA says it will spend $3.7 billion this year and an equal amount next year for Chávez-approved social and economic-development programs. Earlier this year, the company turned an empty fuel-storage depot into a development zone dubbed the Fabricio Ojeda Endogenous Development Nucleus. The center boasts clothing and boot-making cooperatives, a state-of-the-art clinic and school, a food market and a 10-acre farm built on a steep hillside in the middle of the city's slums.

At one recent training session, a group of mostly middle-age women workers, dressed in white blouses and blue pants, cut cloth for T-shirts. A PDVSA employee, Omar Ruiz, gave 18 co-op members a primer on the flaws of capitalism. Mr. Ruiz encouraged his students to imagine a regular factory. They soon came to the conclusion that the owner, played by their short, bearded teacher, was appropriating the fruit of their labor. "They realize they are very poor and I am very rich," said Mr. Ruiz. "Then we change that by setting up an alternative, non-capitalist model, and everybody wins."

Then the class turned to the problems of their own clothing cooperative, named "Venezuela Advances." The co-op, which has a $2,600 order from PDVSA for a thousand T-shirts, received a 20-year, interest-free loan from the state of $2.6 million. The 280 people who work there each agreed to invest about $26 of their own money over five months. Only three out of the 18 class members were up to date on their monthly quotas, not enough to support the company, even with its fat subsidies.

"To live from the company, we must invest in the company!" thundered Mr. Ruiz.

To plot Venezuela's new direction, Mr. Chávez has recruited a mix of radicals, ex-guerrillas and military officers. Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who is charged with devising the government's poverty-fighting strategy, was once known as "the Albanian" for the orthodox Marxist views he held in graduate school. He formed part of Mr. Chávez's early brain trust, tutoring Mr. Chávez when the future president was serving time in military prison for leading an unsuccessful coup in 1992.

Elias Jaua, the head of the newly created Ministry of the Popular Economy, was until 1991 a student leader of Bandera Roja, a former Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, according to Gabriel Puerta, the national director of Bandera Roja. That group, which has since disavowed armed struggle, opposes Mr. Chávez.

In his former role, Mr. Jaua helped lead violent protests at the Central University of Venezuela every Thursday, in which students known as "encapuchados" or hooded ones, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, Mr. Puerta says. A spokesman for Mr. Jaua says the minister was a student leader, but not in Bandera Roja, and didn't participate in such altercations. He says such accusations are part of a campaign to discredit him.

Then there is Mr. Lanz, one of the principal ideologues for endogenization. Mr. Lanz wants to move slum dwellers from beehive-like barrios to new lives tilling the soil in government-planned farm cooperatives and other rural businesses. He faults the Khmer Rouge, the murderous Communist regime in Cambodia, for compelling people out of the cities in 1975 and promises that the Chávez government won't use force. "We will conduct, convince, have them fall in love and seduce them with successful alternative proposals showing that one can live, under 'X' conditions, in rural areas," he says.

In 1976, Mr. Lanz and five other men entered the Caracas home of William F. Niehaus, Owens-Illinois Inc.'s top Venezuelan executive, pretending to be investigating an auto accident. They bound and gagged his wife Donna and the maid and locked them in the sewing room. Mrs. Niehaus escaped from after half an hour with the help of a pair of scissors. The kidnappers injected Mr. Niehaus with a sedative, and took him off to the jungle. The kidnapping was designed to gain international attention for the group's goals.

Mr. Niehaus says he wasn't tortured, but that he slept chained to a tree and lost 60 pounds. In 1979, policemen and farmers looking for cattle rustlers stumbled onto the hut where he was held. They killed two guerrillas guarding Mr. Niehaus and freed him. A year after the kidnapping, Mr. Lanz was arrested. Mrs. Niehaus flew to Caracas and identified him as one of the kidnappers.

Although Mr. Lanz and his comrades failed to overthrow the government, the kidnappers got a lot of publicity -- including the publishing of guerrilla manifestos in leading newspapers throughout the world. Mr. Niehaus, 73, now a consultant in Toledo, Ohio, says of Mr. Lanz: "I try to forget him."

Mr. Lanz spent eight years in prison and used the time to write a book called "The Niehaus Case and Administrative Corruption," which is now out of print. He says he assumes "political responsibility" for the kidnapping, without elaborating.

In a recently published pamphlet titled "The Revolution is Cultural or It Will Reproduce Domination," Mr. Lanz wrote that the state must fight a relentless war against junk food, replacing hamburgers and sodas with native foods. That could help cure Venezuela of the consumerism it has imported from the U.S., he says. "I've been called a gastronomic fundamentalist," he adds.

Mr. Lanz and Mr. Jaua run "Mission Vuelvan Caras," or Mission About Face, a program whose goal is to transform the economy into a network of state-financed cooperatives producing everything from organic lettuce to endogenous anti-riot vehicles modeled on the U.S. Hummer. Fifty-five of these have already been built for the Venezuelan military.

So far, says Mr. Jaua, close to 34,000 cooperatives in agriculture, construction, services and manufacturing are in the works. Some 206 centers for endogenous production are already up and running throughout the country, he says. The government is paying about 400,000 members of its cooperative-training program a monthly stipend of roughly $100, for up to a year, to take classes in setting up cooperatives. It wants to triple the number of students.

Despite Mr. Chávez's admiration for Cuba, few expect him to go as far as Fidel Castro and expropriate private and foreign businesses. The government already owns the oil sector, which produces export revenue of $26 billion, or about 80% of Venezuela's export haul. Opinion polls also suggest an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans oppose any attempt to duplicate the Cuban regime. Mr. Chávez has nonetheless constricted foreign participation in Venezuela's oil industry and is using oil money to set up a new state-run airline and a state-run telecommunications company -- years after the government sold off those assets in a push toward free markets.

The endogenization program has boosted Mr. Chávez's popularity, especially among the poor who benefit most. "I'm taking the opportunity President Chávez has given me," says Ana Guedes, a 39-year-old seamstress. "He is the best president we've ever had." Previously unemployed, she is now paid $100 a month as a member of Mission Vuelvan Caras. Mr. Chávez's approval ratings have doubled from a low point of 30.8% in July 2003, before the Missions began operation, to 59.2% in September, according to Datanalisis, a Venezuelan pollster.

Even critics say some of the activities, such as bringing Cuban doctors to the barrios, have helped millions of slum dwellers who had little access to health care. It's less clear whether various education projects, which essentially consist of funneling money to the poor, have had much effect, says Luis Pedro España, an expert on social policy at the Andrés Bello Catholic University. For instance, says Mr. España, most Venezuelan illiterates are women over 55 living in rural areas. Mr. Chávez's alphabetization program, called Mission Robinson, is mostly aimed at the urban population.

At Fuerte Tiuna, the headquarters of Venezuela's armed forces, base commander Col. Antonio Alcalá says the program helps Venezuela. Col. Alcalá, who like Mr. Chávez spent time in military prison after the failed 1992 coup, is teaching residents of nearby slums how to grow vegetables on their roofs without chemical-based fertilizer, a technique developed by Cuba. He says some 70,000 one-meter square "micro-plots" are being cultivated in the slums around Caracas, helping wean Venezuela off food imports.

Digging his hands into a trough of fertilizer made by millions of worms fed on cow dung, Col. Alcalá praises the future of Venezuela's new agriculture. "In a couple of years, we'll be selling vegetables to Cuba," he says.



Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Will Kerry fund real probe if House member seeks Ohio elector challenge?

Will Kerry fund real probe if House member seeks Ohio elector challenge?

by Tom Flocco

Washington – Dec. 13, 2004 -- -- After listening to unofficial but stunning testimony concerning evidence of state-wide vote fraud during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on 2004 election irregularities in Ohio, ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-14-MI) was asked whether he would consider challenging the seating of Buckeye state electors on January 6 when Congress opens the presidential electoral college vote certifying the election of George W. Bush.

Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and senior committee member who convened the Ohio voting aberrations hearing held last Wednesday in the House Rayburn office building, replied, "We are now."

Many Democrats now consider John Kerry's premature concession to George Bush a costly mistake which constitutional scholars say could ultimately affect the rigor, intensity and thoroughness of state and federal judges adjudicating the ongoing Ohio election litigation--a series of unpublicized lawsuits which could augur potential criminal prosecutions.

Except for some post-election reporting by MSNBC Countdown cable TV host Keith Olbermann--who has ceased covering the story in recent days--there has been a curious mainstream television and radio news black-out regarding the state's explosive and expanding electoral conundrum since November 2.

Conyers had expressed concern to Olbermann that "evidence can be moved or changed if it's not kept properly until we can get the Government Accounting Office to investigate," referring specifically to Canton, Ohio's Diebold Corporation--a major flashpoint in the vote scandal, while further emphasizing the necessity for proper and immediate impounding of Ohio machines.

Stanford computer science professor David Dill also told Olbermann "I know there are a lot of different ways to hack the machines, and the auditing we ought to be doing to catch it is...not being done," adding "...those exit poll companies owe an explanation to the American people. And they owe us the release of the data, so that independent experts can check their claims.

Conyers' group of colleagues heard testimony on election anomalies pointing primarily to important issues of equal protection under the law, federal Voting Rights Act violations and manipulation of voting machines--all of which could predict a potential constitutional crisis involving the Supreme Court prior to Mr. Bush's presidential inauguration, with even more litigation to be filed within days.

Representative Melvin Watt (D-12-NC) pointed out to other Democrat House members and attendees--but also a live C-Span national cable audience, that Conyers had asked House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-5-WI) to sponsor the hearing thus making it official; however, the Wisconsin Republican declined to do so and no other GOP caucus members attended.

Kerry's recount cash

The allegations in Ohio but also in Florida are significant because a change in the election results in either state would cause a new slate of Democrat electors to shift the final electoral college count in Kerry's favor; and there is still time for a full recount before Congress certifies the electoral results on January 6, 2005.

"Evidence can be moved or changed if it's not kept properly until we can get the Government Accounting Office to investigate" Rep. John Conyers

According to pre-General Election filings and the Center for Public Integrity (11-1-2004), the Kerry Campaign has $51.6 million cash-on-hand--more than enough for recounts, legal battles, voting machine tabulator analysis and other investigations in Ohio in order to make a clear-cut case for vote fraud.

But the senator's failure to forcefully seek legal redress to investigate the allegations will make Conyers' position that much more problematic in front of the House and the Senate in January.

According to George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, "On December 7, the electors are certified under federal law and on December 13, the electors actually vote...but those votes are not opened by Congress until January 6. Now, if there are controversies such as some disclosure that a state actually went for Kerry, there is the ability of members of Congress to challenge."

Turley continued: "It requires a written objection from one House member and one senator. If that objection is recorded, then both Houses separate again and they vote by majority vote as to whether to accept the slate of electoral votes from the state in question."

Turley said "over 70% of Ohio's votes were done with punch cards. We know that when you challenge those, they tend to turn over. So there is still room for challenge in Ohio...but without the [major] candidate [the one who suffers the most irreparable harm], judges don't really work that hard."

A post-election Associated Press (AP) report provided evidence that Kerry did not intend to fully use his massive campaign war-chest, as an inner-circle campaign aide said the cash should have been spent in late July to build political organizations in Ohio and Florida--the key states where voting irregularities may have been employed to win enough electoral votes to tip the balance.

Other senior campaign aides told AP reporter Ron Fournier that Kerry wanted to save the money in the event of a recount, legal challenges or other unforeseen bills. Investigative analysis of electronic voting machines and central tabulators was not mentioned by the AP.

"There is still room for a challenge in Ohio...but without the [major] candidate, judges don't really work that hard." Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley



Saturday, December 18, 2004

How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career


Part One

Excerpted from Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.

[What follows is an extended excerpt from Chapter Two of our book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press published by Verso. AC / JSC]

The attack on Gary Webb and his series in the San Jose Mercury News remains one of the most venomous and factually inane assaults on a professional journalist's competence in living memory. In the mainstream press he found virtually no defenders, and those who dared stand up for him themselves became the object of virulent abuse and misrepresentation. L. J. O'Neale, the prosecutor for the Justice Department who was Danilo Blandón's patron and Rick Ross's prosecutor, initially formulated the polemical program against him. When one looks back on the assault in the calm of hindsight, what is astounding is the way Webb's foes in the press mechanically reiterated those attacks.

There was a disturbing racist thread underlying the attacks on Webb's series, and on those who took his findings seriously. It's clear, looking through the onslaughts on Webb in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, that the reaction in black communities to the series was extremely disturbing to elite opinion. This was an eruption of outrage, an insurgency not just of very poor people in South Central and kindred areas, but of almost all blacks and many whites as well. In the counterattacks, one gets the sense that a kind of pacification program was in progress. Karen De Young, an assistant editor at the Washington Post, evoked just such an impulse when Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review interviewed her. "I looked at [the Mercury News series] when it initially came out and decided it was something we needed to follow up on. When it became an issue in the black community and on talk shows, that seemed to be a different phenomenon." Remember too that the O. J. Simpson jury decision had also been deeply disturbing to white opinion. In that case, blacks had rallied around a man most whites believed to be a vicious killer, and there was a "white opinion riot" in response. Now blacks were mustering in support of a story charging that their profoundest suspicions of white malfeasance were true. So in the counterattack there were constant, patronizing references to "black paranoia," decorously salted with the occasional concession that there was evidence from the past to support the notion that such paranoia might have some sound foundation.

Another factor lent a particular edge to the onslaughts. This was the first occasion on which the established press had to face the changing circumstances of the news business, in terms of registering mass opinion and allowing popular access. Webb's series coincided with the coming of age of the Internet. The Miami Herald, another Knight-Ridder paper in the same corporate family as the Mercury News, had been forced to change editorial course in the mid-1980s by the vociferous, highly conservative Cuban American presence in Miami. The Herald chose not to reprint Webb's series. However, this didn't prevent anyone in south Florida from finding the entire series on the Internet, along with all the supporting documents.

The word "pacification" is not inappropriate to describe the responses to Webb's story. Back in the 1980s, allegations about Contra drug running, also backed by documentary evidence, could be ignored with impunity. Given the Internet and black radio reaction, in the mid-1990s this was no longer possible, and the established organs of public opinion had to launch the fiercest of attacks on Webb and on his employer. This was a campaign of extermination: the aim was to destroy Webb and to force the Mercury News into backing away from the story's central premise. At the same time, these media manipulators attempted to minimize the impact of Webb' s story on the black community.

Another important point in the politics of this campaign is that Webb's fiercest assailants were not on the right. They were mainstream liberals, such as Walter Pincus and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and David Corn of the Nation, There has always been a certain conservative suspicion of the CIA, even if conservatives--outside the libertarian wing--heartily applaud the Agency's imperial role. The CIA's most effective friends have always been the liberal center, on the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times and in the endorsement of a person like the Washington Post's president, Katharine Graham. In 1988 Graham had told CIA recruits, "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."

By mid-September of 1996 the energy waves created by Webb's series were approaching critical mass and beginning to become an unavoidable part of the national news agenda. For example, NBC Dateline, a prime-time news show, had shot interviews with Webb and Rick Ross and had sent a team down to Nicaragua, where they filmed an interview with Norwin Meneses and other figures in the saga. Webb tells of a conversation with one of the Dateline producers, who asked him, "Why hasn't this shit been on TV before?" "You tell me," Webb answered. "You're the TV man."

A couple of weeks after this exchange, the program was telling Webb that it didn't look as though they would be going forward with the story after all. In the intervening weeks, the counterattack had been launched, and throughout the networks the mood had abruptly shifted. On November 15, NBC's Andrea Mitchell (partner of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, about as snugly ensconced a member of the Washington elite as you could hope to find) was saying on NBC News in Depth that Webb's story "was a conspiracy theory" that had been "spread by talk radio."

The storm clouds began to gather with the CNN-brokered exchange between Webb and Ron Kessler. Kessler had had his own dealings with the Agency. In 1992 he had published Inside the CIA, a highly anecdotal and relatively sympathetic book about the Agency, entirely devoid of the sharp critical edge that had characterized Kessler's The FBI. A couple of CIA memos written in 1991 and 1992 record the Agency's view of the experience of working with Kessler and other reporters.

The 1991 CIA note discusses Kessler's request for information and brags that a close relationship had been formed with Kessler, "which helped turn some 'intelligence failure' stories into 'intelligence success' stories." Of course this could have been merely self-serving fluff by an Agency officer, but it is certainly true that Kessler was far from hard on the Agency. That same CIA memo goes on to explain that the Agency maintains "relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly and TV network." The memo continues, "In many instances we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests or jeopardized sources or methods."

The next attack on Webb came from another long-time friend of the Agency, Arnaud de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave had worked for News- week as a columnist for many years and made no secret of the fact that he regarded many of his colleagues as KGB dupes. He himself boasted of intimate relations with French, British and US intelligence agencies and was violently right-wing in his views. In recent years he has written for the sprightly Washington Times, a conservative paper owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The thrust of de Borchgrave's attack, which appeared in the Washington Times on September 24, 1996, was that Webb's basic thesis was wrong, because the Contras had been rolling in CIA money. Like almost all other critics, de Borchgrave made no effort to deal with the plentiful documents, such as federal grand jury transcripts, that Webb had secured and that were available on the Mercury News website. Indeed, some of the most experienced reporters in Washington displayed, amid their criticisms, a marked aversion to studying such source documents. De Borchgrave did remark that when all the investigations were done, the most that would emerge would be that a couple of CIA officers might have been lining their own pockets.

That same September 24, 1996, a more insidious assault came in the form of an interview of Webb by Christopher Matthews on the CNBC cable station. There are some ironies here. Matthews had once worked for Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. O'Neill had been sympathetic to the amendment against Contra funding offered by his Massachusetts colleague, Edward Boland. On the other hand, O'Neill had swiftly reacted to a firestorm of outrage about cocaine after the death of the Celtics' draftee Len Bias, a star basketball player at the University of Maryland. At that time, he rushed through the House some appalling "War on Drugs" legislation whose dire effects are still with us today.

Matthews left O'Neill's office with a carefully calculated career plan to market himself as a syndicated columnist and telepundit. Positioning himself as a right-of-center liberal, Matthews habitually eschewed fact for opinion, and is regarded by many op-ed editors as a self-serving blowhard with an exceptionally keen eye for the main chance. Clearly sensing where the wind was blowing, Matthews used his show to launch a fierce attack on Webb. First, he badgered the reporter for supposedly producing no evidence of "the direct involvement of American CIA officers." "Who said anything about American CIA agents?" Webb responded. "That's the most ethnocentric viewpoint I've ever seen in my life. The CIA used foreign nationals all the time. In this operation they were using Nicaraguan exiles."

Matthews had clearly prepped himself with de Borchgrave's article that morning. His next challenge to Webb was on whether or not the Contras needed drug money. Matthews's research assistants had prepared a timeline purporting to show that the Contras were flush with cash during the period when Webb's stories said they were desperate for money from any source.

But Webb, who had lived the chronology for eighteen months, stood his ground. He patiently expounded to Matthews's audience how Meneses and Blandón's drugs-for-guns operation was at its peak during the period when Congress had first restricted, then later totally cut off US funding to the Contra army based in Honduras. Webb told Matthews, "When the CIA funding was restored, all these guys got busted." After the interview, Webb says Matthews stormed off the set, berating his staff, "This is outrageous. I've been sabotaged."

The tempo now began to pick up. On October 1, Webb got a call in San Diego from Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post media reporter. "Kurtz called me," Webb remembers, "and after a few innocuous questions I thought that was that." It wasn't. Kurtz's critique came out on October 2 and became a paradigm for many of the assaults that followed. The method was simplicity itself: a series of straw men swiftly raised up, and as swiftly demolished. Kurtz opened by describing how blacks, liberal politicians and "some" journalists "have been trumpeting a Mercury News story that they say links the CIA to drug trafficking in the United States." Kurtz told how Webb's story had become "a hot topic," through the unreliable mediums of the Internet and black talk radio. "There's just one problem," Kurtz went on. "The series doesn't actually say the CIA knew about the drug trafficking." To buttress this claim, Kurtz then wrote that Webb had "admitted" as much in their brief chat with the statement, "We'd never pretended otherwise. This doesn't prove the CIA targeted black people. It doesn't say this was ordered by the CIA. Essentially, our trail stopped at the door of the CIA. They wouldn't return my phone calls."

What Webb had done in the series was show in great detail how a Contra funding crisis had engendered enormous sales of crack in South Central, how the wholesalers of that cocaine were protected from prosecution until the funding crisis ended, and how these same wholesalers were never locked away in prison, but were hired as informants by federal prosecutors. It could be argued that Webb's case is often circumstantial, but prosecutions on this same amount of circumstantial evidence have seen people put away on life sentences. Webb was telling the truth on another point as well: the CIA did not return his phone calls. And unlike Kurtz's colleagues at the Washington Post or New York Times reporter Tim Golden, who offered twenty-four off-the-record interviews in his attack, Webb refused to run quotes from officials without attribution. In fact, Webb did have a CIA source. "He told me," Webb remembers, "he knew who these guys were and he knew they were cocaine dealers. But he wouldn't go on the record so I didn't use his stuff in the story. I mean, one of the criticisms is we didn't include CIA comments in [the] story. And the reason we didn't is because they wouldn't return my phone calls and they denied my Freedom of Information Act requests."

But suppose the CIA had returned Webb's calls? What would a spokesperson have said, other than that Webb's allegations were outrageous and untrue? The CIA is a government entity pledged to secrecy about its activities. On scores of occasions, it has remained deceptive when under subpoena before a government committee. Why should the Agency be expected to answer frankly a bothersome question from a reporter? Yet it became a fetish for Webb's assailants to repeat, time after time, that the CIA denied his charges and that he had never given this denial as the Agency's point of view.

The CIA is not a kindergarten. The Agency has been responsible for many horrible deeds, including killings. Yet journalists kept treating it as though it was some above-board body, like the US Supreme Court. Many of the attackers assumed that Webb had been somehow derelict in not unearthing a signed order from William Casey mandating Agency officers to instruct Enrique Bermúdez to arrange with Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandón to sell "x kilos of cocaine." This is an old tactic, known as "the hunt for the smoking gun." But of course, such a direct order would never be found by a journalist. Even when there is a clearly smoking gun, like the references to cocaine paste in Oliver North's notebooks, the gun rarely shows up in the news stories. North's notebooks were released to the public in the early 1990s. There for all to see was an entry on July 9, 1984, describing a conversation with CIA man Dewey Clarridge: "Wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste." Another entry on the same day stated, "Want aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos."

"In Bolivia they have only one kind of paste," says former DEA agent Michael Levine, who spent more than a decade tracking down drug smugglers in Mexico, Southeast Asia and Bolivia. "That's cocaine paste. We have a guy working for the NSC talking to a CIA agent about a phone call to Adolfo Calero. In this phone call they discuss picking up cocaine paste from Bolivia and wanting an aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos." None of Webb's attackers mentioned these diary entries.

A sort of manic literalism permeated the attacks modeled on Kurtz's chop job. For instance, critics repeatedly returned to Webb's implied accusation that the CIA had targeted blacks. As we have noted, Webb didn't actually say this, but merely described the sequence which had led to blacks being targeted by the wholesaler. However, we shall see that there have been many instances where the CIA, along with other government bodies, has targeted blacks quite explicitly--in testing the toxicity of disease organisms, or the effects of radiation and mind-altering drugs. Yet Webb's critics never went anywhere near the well-established details of such targeting. Instead, they relied on talk about "black paranoia," which liberals kindly suggested could be traced to the black historical experience, and which conservatives more brusquely identified as "black irrationality."

Kurtz lost no time in going after Webb's journalistic ethics and denouncing the Mercury News for exploitative marketing of the series. As an arbiter of journalistic morals, Kurtz castigated Webb for referring to the Contras as "the CIA's army," suggesting that Webb used this phrase merely to implicate the Agency. This charge recurs endlessly in the onslaughts on Webb, and it is by far the silliest. One fact is agreed upon by everyone except a few berserk Maoists-turned-Reaganites, like Robert Leiken of Harvard. That fact is that the Contras were indeed the CIA's army, and that they had been recruited, trained and funded under the Agency's supervision. It's true that in the biggest raids of all--the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors and the raids on the Nicaraguan oil refineries--the Agency used its own men, not trusting its proxies. But for a decade the main Contra force was indeed the CIA's army, and followed its orders obediently.

In attacks on reporters who have overstepped the bounds of political good taste, the assailants will often make an effort to drive a wedge between the reporter and the institution for which the reporter works. For example, when Ray Bonner, working in Central America for the New York Times, sent a dispatch saying the unsayable--that US personnel had been present at a torture session--the Wall Street Journal and politicians in Washington attacked the Times as irresponsible for running such a report. The Times did not stand behind Bonner, and allowed his professional credentials to be successfully challenged.

The fissure between Webb and his paper opened when Kurtz elicited a statement from Jerry Ceppos, executive editor of the Mercury News, that he was "disturbed that so many people have leaped to the conclusion that the CIA was involved." This apologetic note from Ceppos was not lost on Webb's attackers, who successfully worked to widen the gap between reporter and editor.

Another time-hallowed technique in such demolition jobs is to charge that this is all "old news"--as opposed to that other derided commodity, "ill-founded speculation." Kurtz used the "old news" ploy when he wrote, "The fact that Nicaraguan rebels were involved in drug trafficking has been known for a decade. " Kurtz should have felt some sense of shame in writing these lines, since his own paper had sedulously avoided acquainting its readers with this fact. Kurtz claimed, ludicrously, that "the Reagan Administration acknowledged as much in the 1980s, but subsequent investigations failed to prove that the CIA condoned or even knew about it." This odd sentence raised some intriguing questions. When had the Reagan administration "acknowledged as much"? And if the Reagan administration knew, how could the CIA have remained in ignorance? Recall that in the 1980s, the Reagan administration was referring to the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers," and accusing the Sandinistas of being drug runners.

Kurtz also slashed at Webb personally, stating that he "appeared conscious of making the news." As illustration, Kurtz quoted a letter that Webb had written to Rick Ross in July 1996 about the timing of the series. Webb told Ross that it would probably be run around the time of his sentencing, in order to "generate as much public interest as possible." As Webb candidly told Ross, this was the way the news business worked. So indeed it does, at the Washington Post far more than at the Mercury News, as anyone following the Post's promotion of Bob Woodward's books will acknowledge. But Webb is somehow painted as guilty of self-inflation for telling Ross a journalistic fact of life.

On Friday, October 4, the Washington Post went to town on Webb and on the Mercury News, The onslaught carried no less than 5,000 words in five articles. The front page featured a lead article by Roberto Suro and Walter Pincus, headlined "CIA and Crack: Evidence Is Lacking of Contra-Tied Plot." Also on the front page was a piece by Michael Fletcher on black paranoia. The A section carried another piece on an inside page, a profile of Norwin Meneses by Douglas Farah. A brief sidebar by Walter Pincus was titled, "A Long History of Drug Allegations," compressing the entire history of the CIA's involvement with drug production in Southeast Asia--a saga that Al McCoy took 634 pages to chart--into 300 words. Finally, the front page of the Post's Style section that Friday morning contained an article by Donna Britt headlined, "Finding the Truest Truth." Britt's topic was how blacks tell stories to each other and screw things up in the process.

Connections between Walter Pincus and the intelligence sector are long-standing and well-known. From 1955 to 1957, he worked for US Army Counter-Intelligence in Washington, D.C. Pincus himself is a useful source about his first connections with the CIA. In 1968, when the stories about the CIA's penetration of the National Student Association had been broken by the radical magazine Ramparts, Pincus wrote a rather solemn expose of himself in the Washington Post. In a confessional style, he reported how the Agency had sponsored three trips for him, starting in 1960. He had gone to conferences in Vienna, Accra and New Delhi, acting as a CIA observer. It was clearly an apprenticeship in which--as he well knew--Pincus was being assessed as officer material. He evidently made a good impression, because the CIA asked him to do additional work. Pincus says he declined, though it would be hard to discern from his reporting that he was not, at the least, an Agency asset. The Washington Times describes Pincus as a person "who some in the Agency refer to as 'the CIA's house reporter.'"

Since Webb's narrative revolved around the central figures of Blandón and Meneses, Pincus and Suro understandably focused on the Nicaraguans, claiming that they were never important players in Contra circles. To buttress this view, the Post writers hauled out the somewhat dubious assertions of Adolfo Calero. As with other CIA denials, one enters a certain zone of unreality here. Journalists were using as a supposedly reliable source someone with a strong motivation to deny that his organization had anything to do with the cocaine trafficking of which it was accused. Pincus and Suro solemnly cited Calero as saying that when he met with Meneses and Blandón, "We had no crystal ball to know who they were or what they were doing." Calero's view was emphasized as reliable, whereas Blandón and Meneses were held to be exaggerating their status in the FDN.

Thus, we have Webb, based on Blandón's sworn testimony as a government witness before a federal grand jury, reporting that FDN leader Colonel Enrique Bermúdez had bestowed on Meneses the title of head of intelligence and security for the FDN in California. On the other hand, we have the self-interested denials to Pincus and Suro of a man who has been denounced to the FBI as "a pathological liar" by a former professor at California State University, Hayward, Dennis Ainsworth.

Just as Kurtz had done, Pincus and Suro homed in on the charge that Webb had behaved unethically. This time the charge was suggesting certain questions that Ross's lawyer, Alan Fenster, could ask Blandón. Webb' s retort has always been that it would be hard to imagine a better venue for reliable responses than a courtroom with the witness under oath.

But how did all the Washington Post writers come to focus in so knowledgeably on this particular courtroom scene?

Kurtz never mentions his name, and Pincus and Suro refer to him only in passing, but Assistant US District Attorney L. J. O'Neale was himself being questioned by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department investigators on November 19, 1996. The department's transcript of the interview shows O'Neale reveling in his top-secret security clearance with the CIA, and saying that "his personal feelings were that Mr. Webb had become an active part of Ricky Ross's defense team. He said that it was his personal opinion that Webb's involvement was on the verge of complicity." While he was speaking, O'Neale was searching for a document. As the investigators put it in their report, "In our presence he called Howard Kurtz, the author of the first Washington Post article, but nobody answered." Thereupon, also in their presence, he talked to Walter Pincus.

This hint of pre-existing relations between the Washington Post and the federal prosecutor suggests that O'Neale had rather more input into the Post's attacks on Webb than the passing mention of his name might suggest. And indeed, a comparison between O'Neale's court filings and the piece by Pincus and Suro shows that the Washington Post duo faithfully followed the line of O'Neale's attack. Once again, motive is important. O'Neale had every reason to try to subvert a reporter who had described in great detail how the US District Attorney had become the patron and handler of Danilo Blandón. Webb had described how O'Neale had saved Blandón from a life term in prison, found him a job as a government agent and used him as his chief witness in a series of trials. O'Neale had an enormous stake in discrediting Webb.

O'Neale's claim, reiterated by Pincus and Suro, is that Blandón mainly engaged in sending cocaine profits to the Contras in late 1981 and 1982, before hooking up with Rick Ross. Furthermore, the amount of cocaine sold by Blandón was a mere fraction of the national market for the drug, and thus could not have played a decisive role in sparking a crack plague in Los Angeles. In other words, according to the O'Neale line in the Post, Blandón had sold only a relatively insignificant amount of cocaine in 1981 and 1982 (later the magical figure $50,000 worth became holy writ among Webb's critics). His association with Ross had begun after Blandón had given up his charitable dispensations to the Contras, and thus was a purely criminal enterprise with no political ramifications. Therefore, even by implication, there could be no connection between the CIA and the rise of crack.

O'Neale had reversed the position he had taken in the days when he was prosecuting Blandón and calling him "the largest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States." Now he was claiming that Blandón's total sales of cocaine amounted to only 5 tons, and thus he could not be held accountable for the rise of crack. This specific argument was seized gratefully by Pincus and Suro. "Law enforcement estimates," Pincus and Suro wrote, "say Blandón handled a total of only about five tons of cocaine during a decade-long career."

Imagine if the Washington Post had been dealing with a claim by Mayor Marion Barry that during his mayoral terms "only" about 10,000 pounds of crack had been handled by traffickers in the blocks surrounding his office!

Webb was attacked for claiming, in the opening lines of his series, that "millions" had been funneled back to the Contras. In his statements to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department investigators, O'Neale said, " Blandón dealt with a total of 40 kilos of cocaine from January to December 1982. The profits of the sales were used to purchase weapons and equipment for the Contras." O'Neale was trying to narrow the window of "political" cocaine sales. However, during that time Blandón was selling cocaine worth over $2 million--in only a fraction of the period that Webb identified as the time the cocaine profits were being remitted to Honduras.

The degree of enmity directed toward Webb can be gauged not only by O'Neale's diligent briefings of Webb's antagonists, but also by the raid on the office of Gary Webb's literary agent, Jody Hotchkiss of the Sterling Lord Agency, by agents of the Department of Justice and the DEA. The government men came brandishing subpoenas for copies of all correspondence between the Sterling Lord Agency, Rick Ross, Ross's lawyer Alan Fenster, and Webb. The DEA justified the search on the grounds that it wanted to see if Ross had any assets it could seize to pay his hefty fines. But Webb reckons "they were really looking for some sort of business deal between me and Ross. They wanted to discredit me as a reporter by saying he's making deals with drug dealers." The raid produced no evidence of any such deal, because there was none.

Cheek by jowl with Pincus and Suro on the Washington Post's front page that October 4 was Fletcher's essay on the sociology of black paranoia. Blacks, Fletcher claimed, cling to beliefs regardless of "the shortage of factual substantiation" and of "denials by government officials." Fletcher duly stated some pieties about the "bitter" history of American blacks. Then he bundled together some supposed conspiracies (that the government deliberately infected blacks with the AIDS virus, that Church's fried chicken and Snapple drinks had been laced with chemicals designed to sterilize black men) and implied that allegations about the CIA and cocaine trafficking were of the same order. It is true, Fletcher conceded, that blacks had reasons to be paranoid. "Many southern police departments," he wrote delicately, "were suspected of having ties to the Ku Klux Klan." He mentioned in passing the FBI snooping on Martin Luther King Jr. and the sting operation on Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Marion Barry. He also touched on the syphilis experiments conducted by the government on blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama. "The history of victimization of black people allows myths--and, at times, outright paranoia--to flourish." In other words, the black folk get it coming and going. Terrible things happen to them, and then they're patronized in the Washington Post for imagining that such terrible things might happen again. "Even if a major investigation is done," Fletcher concluded, "it is unlikely to quell the certainty among many African Americans that the government played a role in bringing the crack epidemic to black communities."

A few days later, a Post editorial followed through on this notion of black irrationality and the lack of substance in Webb's thesis. The writer observed that "The Mercury [had] borrowed heavily from a certain view of CIA rogue conduct that was widespread ten years ago." The "biggest shock," the editorial went on, "wasn't the story but the credibility the story seems to have generated when it reached some parts of the black community." This amazing sentence was an accurate rendition of what really bothered the Washington Post, which was not charges that the CIA had been complicit in drug running, but that black people might be suspicious of the government's intentions toward them. The Post's editorial said solemnly that "[i]f the CIA did associate with drug pushers its aim was not to infect Americans but to advance the CIA' s foreign project and purposes."

In the weeks that followed, Post columnists piled on the heat. Mary McGrory, the doyenne of liberal punditry, said that the Post had successfully "discredited" the Mercury News. Richard Cohen, always edgy on the topic of black America, denounced Rep. Maxine Waters for demanding an investigation after the Washington Post had concluded that Webb's charges were "baseless." "When it comes to sheer gullibility--or is it mere political opportunism?--Waters is in a class of her own."

One story in that October 4 onslaught in the Post differed markedly from its companion pieces. That was the profile of Meneses by Douglas Farah, which actually advanced Webb's story. Farah, the Post's man in Central America, filed a dispatch from Managua giving a detailed account of Meneses's career as a drug trafficker, going back to 1974. Farah described how Meneses had "worked for the Contras for five years, fundraising, training and sending people down to Honduras." He confirmed Meneses's encounter with Enrique Bermúdez and added a detail--the gift of a crossbow by Meneses to the colonel. Then Farah produced a stunner, lurking in the twelfth paragraph of his story. Citing "knowledgeable sources," he reported that the DEA had hired Meneses in 1988 to try to set up Sandinista political and military leaders in drug stings. Farah named the DEA agent involved as Federico Villareal. The DEA did not dispute this version of events. In other words, Farah had Meneses performing a political mission for the US government, side by side with the story by his colleagues Pincus and Suro claiming Meneses had no such connections.

Shortly after the Post's offensives on October 2 and October 4, the Mercury News's editor, Jerry Ceppos, sent a detailed letter to the Post aggressively defending Webb and rebutting the criticisms. "The Post has every right to reach different conclusions from those of the Mercury News," Ceppos wrote. "But I'm disappointed in the 'what's the big deal' tone running through the Post's critique. If the CIA knew about illegal activities being conducted by its associates, federal law and basic morality required that it notify domestic authorities. It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of story that a newspaper should shine a light on."

The Post refused to print Ceppos's letter. Ceppos called Stephen Rosenfeld, the deputy editor of the editorial page, who suggested that Ceppos revise his letter and resubmit it. Ceppos promptly did this, and again the Post refused to print his response. Rosenfeld said Ceppos's letter was "misinformation." Ceppos later wrote in the Mercury News:

"I was stunned when the Washington Post rejected my request to reply to its long critique of 'Dark Alliance.' The Post at first encouraged me, asking me to rewrite the article and then to agree to other changes. I did. Then, a few days ago, I received a one-paragraph fax saying that the Post is 'not able to publish' my response. Among other reasons, the Post said [that] other papers 'essentially' confirmed the Post's criticism of our series. I've insisted for years that newspapers don't practice 'groupthink.' I'm still sure that most don't. But the Post's argument certainly gives ammunition to the most virulent critics of American journalism. The Post also said I had backed down 'elsewhere' from positions I took in the piece I wrote for the Post. But I didn't. I shouted to anyone who would listen (and wrote that, in another letter to the Post). It was too late. On the day that the Post faxed me, the Los Angeles Times incorrectly had written that reporter Gary Webb, who wrote the 'Dark Alliance' series, and I had backed down on several key points. Fiction became fact. As if I had no tongue, and no typewriter, I suddenly had lost access to the newspaper that first bitterly criticized our series."

The Post's sordid procedures in savaging Webb were examined by its ombudsman, Geneva Overholzer, on November 10. Ultimately she found her own paper guilty of "misdirected zeal," but first she took the opportunity to stick a few more knives into poor Webb. "The San Jose series was seriously flawed. It was reported by a seemingly hot-headed fellow willing to have people leap to conclusions his reporting couldn't back up--principally that the CIA was knowingly involved in the introduction of drugs into the United States." That said, Overholzer then turned her sights on the Post's editors, saying that the Post showed more energy for protecting the CIA than for protecting the people from government excesses. "Post editors and reporters knew there was strong evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook Contra involvement in the drug trade. Yet when those revelations came out in the 1980s they had caused 'little stir,' as the Post delicately noted. Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift. Alas, dismissing someone else's story as old news comes more naturally."

Source Part 1:


How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career


Part Two

Excerpted from Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.

Despite Ceppos's anger at the Washington Post, the unrelenting attacks from organizations that he held in great professional esteem were beginning to take their toll. It is also quite possible that he was feeling pressure from within the Knight-Ridder empire. To judge from the bleating tone of his pieces about the Webb series in the Mercury News ­ the November 4 article, for example ­ Ceppos may not have had quite the necessary backbone to hold up under pressure.

Ceppos assigned another Mercury News investigative reporter, Pete Carey, to review Webb's reporting against the charges of the media critics. On October 12 the Mercury News published Carey's findings, which backed up Webb's work and actually added new information, particularly regarding the 1986 search warrant against Blandón and his arms-dealing associate, Ronald Lister. But though Webb's reporting was vindicated, the assignment to Carey was an omen of the paper's increasing defensiveness.

Another omen was Ceppos's reaction to charges that Webb had a vested interest in the story because he had a book offer and film offers. The Los Angeles Times reported, inaccurately, that Webb had signed a deal. "This story really pissed off Ceppos," Webb recalls. "He said it made the paper look bad." Webb told Ceppos he didn't have any deals. Ceppos then told Webb, "I don't want you to sign any deals and if you sign any book deals or movie deals you can't work on this story for us anymore."

"That's kind of asking a lot," Webb says he answered. "This is what most reporters dream of."

"Well, you'll have to make up your mind," Ceppos said. "You can either do a book deal or you can work on it for us."

Webb went home to talk over the ultimatum with his wife, Sue, a respiratory therapist. She told him, "Screw them. Do the book. Do the movie and let the Mercury News worry about itself."

"I owe it to the paper," Webb answered. "They're being sniped at." So he called up Hotchkiss at Sterling Lord and told him, "Forget the books. Forget the movie deals. They want me to do more stories. Then I'll do the book."

Sue had better instincts about the Mercury News than her husband. Having told Webb to give up the deals and write the stories for the paper, Ceppos thus did his reporter out of book and movie advances, then failed to run the stories and finally tried to ruin his career.

The next assault was a double-barreled one from either side of the continent, on Sunday, October 17, in the New York Times, staff reporter Tim Golden was given an entire page on which to flail away at Webb. In the Los Angeles Times, an army of fourteen reporters and three editors put out a three-part series, intended to finish off Webb forever.

Golden's piece, entitled "The Tale of CIA and Drugs Has Life of Its Own," was remarkable, among other reasons, for the pullulating anonymity of its sources. Golden claimed to have interviewed "more than two dozen current and former rebels, CIA officers and narcotics agents." From these informants, Golden had concluded that there was "scant" proof to support the paper's contention that Nicaraguan rebel officials linked to the CIA played a central role in spreading crack through Los Angeles and other cities. One conspicuous common link between all the officials quoted by Golden as being critical of Webb is that they remained anonymous. Only Adolfo Calero permitted himself to be identified. Golden's editors at the New York Times allowed him to offer scores of blind quotes without any identification. The Mercury News never offered Webb that indulgence, nor did he request it.

In truth, Golden's story had no substance whatsoever. He got his final word on the story from that well-known Uncle Tom to the thumb-sucking crowd, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a black professor from the Harvard University Medical School. Poussaint, who is always being wheeled out in these situations, ascribed the reaction of black America to the Mercury News story as another case of black paranoia. This tendresse for the CIA's reputation was nothing new for the New York Times. In 1987, its reporter Keith Schneider weighed in with a three-part series dismissing allegations of Contra drug trafficking. A month later Schneider explained to In These Times magazine why he took that approach. He said such a story could "shatter the Republic. I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass." In other words, it would have to be approved by the Agency.

Of all the attacks on Webb, the Los Angeles Times series was the most elaborate and the most disingenuous. For two months the dominant newspaper in Southern California had been derided for missing the big story on its own doorstep. The only way it could salvage its reputation was to claim that there'd been no big story to miss. This is the path it took. It would have been extraordinary if the Times had the decency to clap the Mercury News on the back and praise it for good work, particularly given the disposition of its editor-in-chief at the time, Shelby Coffee III. Coffee came to Los Angeles from the Washington Post, where he had been editor of the Style section. He was regarded there as a smooth courtier in the retinue of Katharine Graham and not in any way as a boat rocker. It would have gone against every instinct for Coffee to have endorsed a story so displeasing to liberal elites. "He is the dictionary definition of someone who wants to protect the status quo," said Dennis McDougal, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, in an interview with New Times, "He weighs whether or not an investigative piece will have repercussions among the ruling elites and if it will, the chances of seeing it in print in the LA Times decrease accordingly."

The mood of the group doing the series, under the leadership of Doyle McManus, could scarcely be described as one of objective dispassion. They referred to themselves as the "Get Gary Webb Team," as Peter Kornbluh reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, and bragged in the office about denying Webb his Pulitzer.

The most important task for the hit squad was to deal with its own backyard. They assigned Webb's old nemesis Jesse Katz the task of undermining Webb's assertion that the Blandón/Ross cocaine ring helped spark the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. Katz duly turned in an article claiming that "the explosion of cheap smokable cocaine in the 1980s was a uniquely egalitarian phenomenon, one that lent itself more to makeshift mom and pop operations than to the sinister hand of a government-sanctioned plot." Katz went on to minimize the role of Rick Ross: "How the crack epidemic reached that extreme, on some level, had nothing to do with Ricky Ross." Katz then asserted that gangs had little or nothing to do with the crack trade, stating flatly that crack sales did not "fill the coffers of the Bloods and the Crips." He also disputed the idea that crack use had spread across the country from Los Angeles.

This was a substantial turnaround from what the Los Angeles Times and Katz had previously reported, before the task of demolishing the Mercury News became paramount. The drumbeat of the newspaper during the mid- and late 1980s was that the Los Angeles Police Department had to crush the gangs. In a 1987 news story, the Times described the gangs as "the foot soldiers of the Colombian cartels." On August 4, 1989, another news story sympathetically relayed a Justice Department report: "Los Angeles street gangs now dominate the rock cocaine trade in Los Angeles and elsewhere, due in part to their steady recourse to murderous violence to enforce territorial dealing supremacy, to deter cheating and to punish rival gang members. The LAPD has identified 47 cities, from Seattle to Kansas City, to Baltimore, where Los Angeles street gang traffickers have appeared."

As for Ross, on December 20, 1994 the Los Angeles Times had published a 2,400-word investigative report by Katz entitled "Deposed King of Crack Now Freed After Five Years in Prison. This Master Marketer Was Key to the Drug's Spread in LA." Katz pulled out all the stops in his lead. "If there was an eye to the storm, if there was a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there was an outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick." Katz reported that "Ross did more than anyone else to democratize it, boosting volume, slashing prices, and spreading disease on a scale never before conceived." Katz called Ross "South Central's first multi-millionaire crack lord" and said "his coast-to-coast conglomerate was selling more than $500,000 a day, a staggering turnover that put the drug within reach of anyone with a few dollars."

A day later, it was Doyle McManus who tried to undermine Webb's work on the Contra connection. One hopes that McManus felt some slight tinge of embarrassment at his newspaper's attack on Webb for unethical behavior in signing a book deal (which, as we have seen, Webb had not in fact done). McManus himself had reported on the Iran/Contra scandal, and simultaneously put out a book on the affair, co-written with Jane Mayer. McManus went the familiar route of larding his story with unattributed quotes from Contras, CIA men and associates of Blandón, all of them naturally enough protesting their innocence. "I wish we had been able to identify them by names of course," McManus piously told Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review. McManus, apparently in some sort of journalistic race to the bottom with his co-assailants Pincus and Golden, contended that Meneses gave the Contras only $20 to $30 at a time, and asserted that Meneses's and Blandón's total contribution was far less than $50,000. This conclusion is derived from McManus's unnamed informants, and has to be set against court testimony, under oath, from numerous named sources cited by Webb. No less an authority than assistant federal prosecutor L. J. O'Neale, who lowballed the dollar figures for reasons noted earlier, had still produced a number of more than $2 million in a single year.

McManus tried to establish a scenario in which Blandón and Meneses gave very little to the Contras, to whom they were not connected in any official capacity, and in which Meneses's cocaine never made it to Rick Ross to be transformed into crack. McManus claimed Ross's crack came from Colombian cocaine and had nothing to do with the Nicaraguans. In McManus's version, Blandón and Meneses were incompetent stooges. However, amid all this dogged effort to subvert Webb's chronology, McManus tripped himself up badly. He alleged that Blandón and Meneses had severed their relationship "entirely by 1983." A few paragraphs later, amid an anecdote designed to establish Meneses as head of a gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight, McManus quoted at length a description of a scene at Meneses's house in San Francisco in November 1984. The unnamed source is identified as a member of the Blandón cocaine ring. He is describing the reaction of Meneses and Blandón to the news that Jairo Meneses, Meneses's cousin, and Renato Peña Cabrerra, official spokesman for the FDN's San Francisco group, had just been busted on cocaine charges. Although McManus had just said that Meneses and Blandón had split two years earlier, he now had them in the midst of a division of cash from a cocaine deal. "Danilo and Norwin had done some business deal. The deal is 40 to 50 kilos. The money was all divvied up. There was cash all over the place. Norwin had steaks on the grill. It was going to be a big party. The phone rings and Margarita shrieks, 'Jairo's been arrested!' Well, everybody cleared out in a heartbeat. They grabbed the money and ran. I don't think anyone turned off the steaks."

It's hard to imagine an anecdote that could more effectively rebut everything McManus had previously labored to establish.

McManus's other objective was to assert the moral purity of the CIA. To this end he interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA officer and staffer at the National Security Council at the time Oliver North was manfully toiling at Reagan's behest to keep the Contras afloat. Cannistraro told McManus that sometimes CIA station chiefs turn a blind eye to "misdeeds by the foreign collaborators they recruit." Cannistraro referred to this trait as "falling in love with your agent." Cannistraro adamantly insisted, however, that there's "no tendency to turn a blind eye to drug trafficking. It's too sensitive. It's not a fine line. It's not a shaded area where you can turn away from the rules." (In 1998 the CIA Inspector General finally admited to Congress that in 1982 the Agency had received clearance from the Justice Department not to report drug trafficking by CIA assets.) What McManus failed to confide to his readers was that Cannistraro had a deep personal interest in denying any Agency tolerance for trafficking. He had supervised many of the CIA/Contra operations and was then transferred to the NSC, where he oversaw US aid to the Afghan mujahidin. As we shall see, the mujahidin were heavily engaged in the trafficking of opium and heroin. Perhaps the most piquant bit of effrontery in McManus's attack was his assertion that even if Meneses had been selling drugs in California and remitting the profits to the Contras, the CIA would have had to turn a blind eye, because the Agency was prohibited from domestic spying!

Even after his pummeling by the two big West and East Coast papers, Webb felt he still retained the support of his editors. "They urged me to continue digging on the story so that we could stick to the Washington Post," For the next two months, Webb continued his research. He flushed out more evidence of direct CIA knowledge of Meneses's operations in Costa Rica and El Salvador. He traced how the DEA made Meneses one of their informer/assets as early as 1985. And he secured more evidence on the controversial money angle, finding that as much as $5 million was channeled back to the Contras from the Blandón/Meneses ring in 1983 alone. Webb turned the stories in to his editor, Dawn Garcia, in January 1997, and the newspaper sat on them. "They didn't edit them," Webb recalls. "They told me that they had read them, but they never asked me for any supporting documentation. They never asked any questions about them."

Then Webb got a call from a friend, saying that a reporter had requested copies of all of Webb's clippings. The reporter seemed interested in digging into Webb's personal background. She particularly asked about an incident in which Webb had fired his .22 at a man who had been trying to steal his prized TR6 and who threatened Webb and his then-pregnant wife. (The man turned out to be a known local crook already convicted of manslaughter.) The reporter pursuing this story was Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review. Shepard had formerly worked as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Her story was another smear on Webb's journalistic ethics, but this time the smears were coming from a source much closer to home. Shepard recounted how Sharon Rosenhause, managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner (a paper boasting Chris Matthews as its Washington, D.C. correspondent), had filed a petition with the Society of Professional Journalists to have Webb stripped of the Journalist of the Year Award that had just been bestowed on him. This had elicited a stinging letter from the director of the Society of Professional Journalists, emphasizing how Rosenhause had a private agenda, and how the society stood behind Webb.

Shepard got several Mercury News staffers to go on record with their criticism of Webb and his stories. Economics writer Scott Thrum, investigative editors Jonathan Krim and Chriss Schmitt, editorial page editor Rob Elder, and the most virulent critic of all, Phil Yost, who is the chief editorial writer for the Mercury News. The criticisms consisted mostly of hand-wringing by nervous colleagues who felt that Webb had compromised the newspaper's "hard-won credibility." Yost simply reiterated the charges made by other newspapers. It was a disgusting demonstration of backstabbing. And it showed clearly that the Mercury News was beginning to distance itself from Webb.

What accounts for the vicious edge to many of these attacks on Webb? One reason for the animosity of the California reporters can be traced back to one of Webb's earliest investigations for the Mercury News. His story revealed that a number of reporters were moonlighting for the very agencies they were supposed to be covering ­ for example, how a TV reporter in Sacramento was being paid by the California Highway Patrol for coaching officers on how to deal with the press. He uncovered a curriculum for the TV reporter's class describing how the CHP should call up editors and complain about unfavorable stories. Webb also exposed reporters at the Sacramento Bee and United Press International, who had received state contracts from the California Lottery Commission. Webb says that after this story appeared, his colleagues regarded him as an outsider.

Another reason for ostracism by his colleagues could be what Webb describes as racist attitudes among the Mercury News staff toward the editor of his series, Dawn Garcia. "I don't think she has a lot of friends in that newsroom, because she came in and she was regarded as one of the Hispanic hires, a quota hire. That's unfair. She's a good newsperson. She took a job from someone that was widely liked in the newsroom."

With his stories sitting unpublished on his editor's desk, some time in early 1997 Webb got a call from Georg Hodel, who had done legwork for him in Nicaragua. Hodel said that he had located four other members of the Meneses/Blandón operation who were willing to talk to Webb. Webb called his editors and said he was going to Nicaragua. They told him they didn't want him to go until they figured out what to do with his stories. Worried that the drug dealers might disappear, Webb said he'd go anyway, on his own time and money.

Soon after he returned to Sacramento from Nicaragua, Webb got a call from Jerry Ceppos, who had spent much of the winter months being treated for prostate cancer. Ceppos told Webb that he was going to publish a letter in the Mercury News admitting that "mistakes had been made" in the "Dark Alliance" series. Ceppos originally wanted to run the apologia in the Easter Sunday edition. When Webb saw a draft of the column, he was outraged. "This is idiotic," Webb recalls telling Ceppos. "Half this stuff isn't even true. It's unconscionable to run this." Ceppos told Webb not to take it personally, that it was just a column and it didn't mean the paper was trying to hang him out to dry.

Webb insisted that he thought Ceppos's column was unethical for a number of reasons, including the fact that though it said there had been shortcomings in the series, it made no reference to the fact that six months of further research had substantiated and advanced most of Webb's original findings. Ceppos replied that they didn't "want to get into that kind of detail."

Ceppos's column ran on May 11. It was a retreat on every front, and a shameful day for American journalism. It accused Webb of leaving out contradictory information, of failing to emphasize that the multimillion-dollar figure was an estimate, and of not including the obligatory denials of the CIA. The series, Ceppos said, had oversimplified the origins of the crack epidemic. Ceppos also declared that the series had wrongly implied CIA knowledge of the Contra drug ring.

Predictably, Ceppos's appalling betrayal of his own reporter was greeted with exuberance by the New York Times, where Todd Purdum used it to legitimize the New York Times's original attack and to lash out at Webb as a paranoid. Purdum also alleged that Ceppos's column had been based on "an exhaustive review" written by a seven-member Mercury News team of reporters and editors. Both the "exhaustive review" and the team had never existed, according to Webb. Though Webb had submitted four stories totaling 14,000 words, Ceppos told Purdum that the reporter had only submitted "notes and ideas." Purdum also marshalled disobliging blind quotes from Webb's Mercury News colleagues.

The Ceppos column was also greeted with glee on the New York Times editorial page, where Ceppos got a patronizing clap on the back for his "courageous gesture." The editorial again affixed blame on Webb, saying that Ceppos's action "sets a high standard for cases in which journalists make egregious errors." Webb had made no such errors. Down at Langley, the CIA was quick to use Ceppos's letter to assert that the Agency had been absolved. "It's gratifying to see," said the Agency's Mark Mansfield, "that a large segment of the media, including the San Jose Mercury News, has taken an objective look at how this story was constructed and reported."

Nor did the Ceppos letter escape notice by Nicaragua's right wing, with perilous consequences for those who had worked on the story with Webb and who had been interviewed by him. The Nicaraguan press, chiefly La Prensa, which had been funded for years by the CIA, ran stories denouncing Webb and urging people to sue him, as well as Hodel and others associated with the story. The Nicaraguan papers alleged that the Mercury News would not mount a defense against such libel actions.

It wasn't long before Georg Hodel became the target of harassment and a possible murder attempt. In mid-June 1997, about a month after Ceppos disowned Webb, Hodel and an attorney for several of the men he and Webb had interviewed were run off the road in Nicaragua and threatened by a group of armed thugs. Hodel and the lawyer escaped and went to a police station to file a complaint. A few days later, a story appeared in one of Nicaragua's right-wing papers saying that Hodel and his companions had gotten drunk and driven off the road themselves.

Meanwhile, the Mercury News had told Webb that his follow-up stories were being killed and that he was being reassigned to the paper's Cupertino bureau, 150 miles from Sacramento. Webb filed a grievance against the paper.

The New York Times continued its vendetta. In perhaps the lowest of all the attacks, Iver Peterson, one of the newspaper's more undistinguished reporters, went back over Webb's investigative pieces before he embarked on the "Dark Alliance" series. Peterson charged that Webb had a history of playing loose with the facts and having "a penchant for self-promotion." He reached this conclusion after dredging up four libel suits, two of which had been dismissed and two of which had been settled. Webb says no major corrections were ever required. (The Times refused to print Webb's letter correcting the record, which is reproduced below.) Peterson also quoted from the targets of Webb's investigations, who, predictably, were not appreciative of the reporter. Back in his Ohio days as a reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Webb had exposed Ohio Supreme Court Judge Frank D. Celebrezze as being in receipt of political contributions from organizations tied to the mob. Celebrezze had sued. There was a settlement and no retraction. Peterson dutifully cited Celebrezze's eager comment that Webb "lied about me and whatever happens to him I think he deserves." It was as if some reporter had used Richard Nixon as a reliable source on the quality of reporting by the New York Times.

However, the coverup and counterattacks had not yet ended. There was the delicate matter of how to deal with the CIA's own internal probe. It's a neat trick to get great coverage for a report you haven't published and that no journalist has actually seen. You need accomplices. The CIA once again used its friends in the press to issue a self-serving news release on its internal investigation of charges that the Agency had connived in Contra drug smuggling into Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

In this particular piece of news management, the CIA outdid itself. In the past, it has relied on its journalistic allies to put the best face on probes that, albeit heavily censored, displayed the Agency in an unpleasing light. But in late December 1997, the CIA elicited friendly coverage, even though the report by the CIA's own Inspector General remained unpublished and under heavy security wraps.

It will be recalled that a month after Webb's story first appeared, the CIA's director John Deutch announced that the Agency's Inspector General, Frederick Hitz, was launching "the most comprehensive analysis ever done" of CIA activities in this sphere. The gambit of the internal probe was initially confined to the allegations made by Webb, but was then widened to take in any references to drug connections in the CIA's files. Also launched in the fall of 1996 was a Justice Department review of Webb's charges. Deutch initially pledged that the CIA report would be finished and released to the public by the end of December 1996. Sixteen months went by.

Then on December 18, 1997 came stories in the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News under headlines such as "CIA Clears Itself in Crack Investigation." CNN picked up the Mercury News's story immediately, telling viewers that the very paper that had made the initial charges against the CIA was now reporting that "an investigation" had absolved the Agency.

But where was the CIA report that had prompted the stories in the LA Times and Mercury News? Unavailable. Reason? It depended who one called. The stories in the LA Times and Mercury News about the mysterious report were filed on Wednesday, December 17 and appeared in print the next day. Then on Thursday, the Justice Department announced its view that public release of the CIA report would damage current criminal investigations. When called, the CIA's press department stated that the CIA now wanted to wait until mid-January, when the second part of the Inspector General's report was supposedly to be finished. Later that Thursday, the Justice Department stated that it would edit the CIA's and its own probes to purge them of any compromising material.

In other words, one was being asked to believe that after sixteen months the CIA and Justice Department had somehow, entirely by accident, contrived a news "event" that exonerated the CIA in major headlines, without providing any evidence to support such a conclusion. Imagine the fury that would have been unleashed if Webb had written a news story thus shorn of any documentary substantiation.

Friday, December 19 brought stories in the New York Times by Tim Weiner and in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus, who had started the press onslaught on Webb in the fall of 1996. Weiner's story ran under the headline, "CIA Says It Has Found No Link Between Itself and Crack Trade." Weiner quoted no named sources and relied entirely on our old friend, "a government official who would not allow his name to be used." Pincus quoted three anonymous officials who claimed that the CIA report shows "no direct or indirect link" between the CIA and cocaine traffickers.

Just how thorough was the CIA's much-touted probe of itself? All indications are that the investigation was far from fierce. The Inspector General had no subpoena power. The CIA's former chief officer in Central America, Dewey Clarridge, now retired and working for General Dynamics, told the Los Angeles Times that the CIA "sent me questions that were a bunch of bullshit." He refused to be interviewed by the CIA's investigators. Clarridge, it should be noted, was a central figure in CIA operations with the Contras, whom he conjured into being from an initial recruitment of Argentinian military torturers, and whose assassination schemes he boasts of having recommended. Other people interviewed by the CIA claim to have been bullied by the Agency's investigators whenever they showed signs of supporting Webb. And what about the author of the stories, Gary Webb? He was never interviewed.

With Webb, we get to the heart of the dust storm. On Saturday, December 13, the San Jose Mercury News announced that Gary Webb had resigned from the paper, after reaching a settlement on a grievance he had filed about his transfer from Sacramento to Cupertino. In the Washington Post and New York Times, Webb's departure from the Mercury News was flagged, with the implication that somehow it offered further evidence of the conclusiveness of the CIA's self-examination.

It looks as though the Agency took the opportunity of Webb's departure to leak a self-serving press release about its conduct. This item was eagerly seized upon by the papers who had been after Webb, and by the Mercury News, which had been terrorized into betraying a fine reporter.

Looking back at the series in mid-1997, Webb said he had nothing to apologize for. "If anything, we pussy-footed around some stuff we shouldn't have, like CIA involvement and their level of knowledge. I'm glad I did the series because this is a story that gutless papers on the East Coast have been ducking for ten years. And now they're forced to confront it. However they chose to confront it, they still have to say what the story's about."

Source Notes

The attack on Gary Webb by his colleagues in the national press was relentless. There are a lot of examples, but perhaps none more blatant than Iver Peterson's smear on Webb in the New York Times, nearly a year after Webb's story had appeared. The initial assault was led by four "star" reporters at the nation's biggest papers: Howard Kurtz and Walter Pincus at the Washington Post, Tim Golden at the New York Times and Doyle McManus (Lt. Colonel of a "Get Webb Team") at the Los Angeles Times. Once these heavyweights drew blood, the editorial pages from across the country came in for the kill. The behavior of the top editors at Webb's own paper, the San Jose Mercury News, was despicable and cowardly. Even the so-called progressive press took shots at Webb, most notably the Nation, whose David Corn sniped that Webb's reporting was flawed.

On the other hand, Webb had his defenders. The LA Weekly was quick to reveal the gaping holes in the Los Angeles Times's saturation bombing of the "Dark Alliance" series. Norman Soloman's article "Snow Job" for Extra!, the magazine of the media watchdog group FAIR, was a fine piece of work that was useful to us. Robert Parry and his colleagues at The Consortium wrote good press criticism and worked to advance the story. The Consortium also printed a harrowing account from Nicaragua by Webb's partner, Georg Hodel, showing the dangers of writing about these forbidden topics in a hostile landscape. Similarly, Peter Kornbluh, the investigator at the National Security Archives, wrote a fine piece for the Columbia Journalism Review. Alicia Shepard's story in the American Journalism Review is neither kind nor fair to Webb, but it does expose the biases and petty jealousies of his colleagues.

As an example of the obdurate and spiteful hostility of the New York Times toward Webb, we include here two letters to the Times correcting serious inaccuracies and exhibitions of bias in the paper's reporting. The first is a response by Webb to Peterson's attack noted above. The Times refused to print it. The second is another commentary, which speaks for itself, on Peterson's story. The Times likewise had refused to print this letter.

To the editor: Since the New York Times allegedly places such a high value on accuracy, I would like to point out some factual errors and omissions in your June 3 story about me and the "Dark Alliance" series I authored last year.

<->The statement that a state audit "cleared" Tandem Computers for its part in a $50 million computer debacle at the California Department of Motor Vehicles is incorrect. The audit, by California Auditor General Kurt Sjoberg, corroborated the findings of my investigation and the Tandem project was scrapped at considerable cost to the state's taxpayers. Moreover, two state officials who approved and oversaw this project ­ and then went to work for Tandem ­ paid large fees to settle conflict of interest charges lodged by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. These charges were filed as a result of my reporting, which won the California Journalism Award in 1994.

<->The statement that the Mercury News "never published a follow-up story" to the Tandem series is also false. Several follow-ups were published, including stories I wrote about the Auditor General's report and the fines paid by the former state officials.

<->(It might have been useful to note that the reporter who criticized my Tandem stories, Lee Gomes, was covering Tandem while its much-ballyhooed DMV project was collapsing, yet somehow managed to miss the story entirely.)

<->Since your reporter, Iver Peterson, did not question me about my Tandem stories, perhaps it's not surprising that these errors and omissions occurred.

<->Finally, I found it amusing that while Mr. Peterson spent many inches airing vague complaints from people I've investigated, he would neglect to mention that I have won more than 30 journalism awards, been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize half a dozen times, and sent a number of corrupt or incompetent government officials and businessmen to jail or early retirement by exposing their misdeeds.

<->Granted, this kind of reporting makes few friends and prompts libel suits, but being well-loved and lawsuit-free has never been part of a reporter's duties as I understand them.

Gary Webb, June 3, 1997

To the editor: A Times reporter [Iver Peterson] has seen fit to lead a story (6/3) on the San Jose Mercury New's "Dark Alliance" series with the stunning news that a request was placed on the agenda of the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to strip the series' author, Gary Webb, of his 1996 Journalist of the Year award. Gratified as I am, as president of the organization, to see that our monthly agenda is of such interest to a national newspaper, in the interests of ethical journalism, which SPJ is dedicated to furthering, please allow me to correct the misleading impression that you have knowingly fostered with that lead paragraph.

Putting an anecdote in the lead paragraph of a news story implies that it has some representative significance, and indeed your writer goes on to state that the agenda item "illustrates" how Webb's series "continues to echo among journalists."

Actually, it illustrates no such thing. One person, an editor at a competing newspaper, has been insisting for nearly a year that the award be withdrawn, and she reiterated her request after appearance of the Mercury News column clarifying (not retracting) its series. As a courtesy to that one person, the item was placed on our agenda. But as your writer was aware ­ because he asked me ­ that person was in no way representative. In fact, she is the only person who has expressed such a view to us, and she acknowledges that she has other reasons to be angry with the San Jose Mercury News.

When the board finally discussed the issue at the member's request, there was no sentiment for withdrawal of the award. The discussion was brief, mostly centered on the irresponsibility of the Times's story.

Your reporter's determination to prove a point with a misguided example is disturbing, but even more so is the fact that he knew in advance that it was misleading and even wrote that "Chances are remote that Webb will lose the award because of one request." The reporter knew that the person who brought our meeting to his attention had an interest in inflating the significance of her own request. In other words, his informant's interest illustrated his informant's interest. Period.

Indeed, if the SPJ chapter meeting had had the importance that the Times's article implied, shouldn't the paper have reported the results of the meeting after it was held?

If the suggestion of potential retraction of Gary Webb's SPJ award continues to echo among journalists, it echoes because those journalists have read it in the New York Times and perpetuated the misimpression by calling us to find out what happened at the meeting, hyped by the Times and its source.

I suggested that the Times' s energy in bludgeoning flaws in the Mercury News series and personally attacking its author be matched by an equal or greater determination to explore the far more important story of the degree of US government complicity in the Contras' dealing in drugs that have devastated so many American communities. That is the story that the major news media have downplayed for more than a decade, while newspapers such as yours devote unprecedented lineage to debunking, in the most personal terms, the efforts of a reporter at another newspaper.


Peter Y. Sussman, President, Northern California Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists June 6, 1997

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Barris, Rick. "A Barracuda Tries to Eat the Messenger." New Times, Oct. 31, 1996.

Bernstein, Dennis, and Julie Light. "Closing the Loop on the Contra-CIA Connection." Pacifica, Nov. 1996.

Billiter, Bill, Ralph Frammolino and Jim Newton. "Deputies Said in '86 Drug Ring Was Tied to the Contras." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 8, 1996.

Boston Herald, editorial. "Courage at the Merc." Boston Herald, May 14, 1997.

Britt, Donna. "Finding the Truest Truth." Washington Post, Oct. 4, 1996.

Brown, Joseph. "Typecast for Genocide or Suicide?" Tampa Tribune, Sept. 29, 1996.

Carey, Peter. "CIA Clears Itself in Crack Investigation." San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 18, 1997.

Ceppos, Jerry. "Perspective: In the Eye of the Storm." San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 3, 1996.
... "A Letter to the Washington Post," San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 18, 1996.
... "A Letter to Our Readers." San Jose Mercury News, May 11, 1997.

Chicago Tribune, editorial. "A Newspaper Says 'Mea Culpa,'" Chicago Tribune. May 14, 1997.

Ciolli, Rita. "Paper Admits Flaws." Newsday, May 13, 1997.

Clairborne, William. "Hearing on CIA Drug Allegations Turns into Rally." Washington Post, Oct. 20, 1996.

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... "The CIA's Latest Coup." CounterPunch, Dec. 16­30, 1997.

Cohen, Richard. "A Racist Past and a Wary Present." Washington Post, Oct. 27, 1996.

Connell, Rich. "Congressional Inquiry Probes CIA Allegations." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20, 1996.

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.Crogan, Jim. "Snow Hits Spring Street." LA Weekly, Feb. 21, 1997.

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. "Questions Arise About Series on CIA-Crack Link." AP Wire, Oct. 4, 1996.

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Dokes, Jennifer. "Media Need to Fill Holes in CIA-Contra Crack Story." Arizona Republic, Oct. 24, 1996.

Early, David E. "Contra-Drug Story Stirs National Debate." San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 6, 1996.

Farragher, Thomas. "Justice Department to Continue Crack/CIA Inquiry." San Jose Mercury News, May 14, 1997.

Fletcher, Michael. "Deutch Assures Caucus on Drug Charges." Washington Post, Sept. 20, 1996.
<-> "Black Caucus Urges Probe of CIA Drug Charge." Washington Post, Sept. 13, 1996.
<-> History Lends Credence to Conspiracy Theories." Washington Post, Oct. 4, 1996.

Flynn, Kitson. "Arresting Talker." Washington Times, Sept. 16, 1996.

Glassman, Jim, host. "CIA and Crack." CNN Capital Gang Sunday, Nov. 17, 1996.

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Greene, Leonard. "Editor's Apology for Paper's Crack­CIA Series Clouds Truth." Boston Herald, May 14, 1997.

Gregory, Dick. "White Press Doesn't Believe It? What Else Is New?" Baltimore Sun, Nov. 24, 1996.

Hackett, Thomas. "The CIA­Crack Story ­ Anatomy of a Journalistic Train Wreck." Salon, May 30, 1997.

Herman, Edward S. "Gary Webb and the Media's Rush to Judgment." Z Magazine, Feb. 1997.

Hinckle, Pia. "Soul Searching in San Jose: How the Mercury News Painfully Distanced Itself from a Big But Flawed Story." Columbia Journalism Review, August 1997.

Hodel, Georg. "Hung Out to Dry: 'Dark Alliance' Series Dies." The Consortium, June 30, 1997.

Holmes, Steven. "CIA Critics Seek Study of Implied Cocaine Link." New York Times, April 15, 1997.

Horgan, John. "Credibility and America's Fourth Estate." Tampa Tribune, Oct. 5, 1996.

Irvine, Reed, and Joseph Goulden. "Partnership for Public Profits." Washington Times, Nov. 14, 1996.
<-> "Knight-Ridder Defends Botched Stories." Washington Inquirer, Dec. 9, 1996.

Jones, Christopher. "Colorblind Drug Hurts All People." Arizona Republic, Oct. 13, 1996.

Katz, Jesse. "Deposed King of Crack." Los Angeles Times, Dec. 20, 1994.
<-> "Tracking the Genesis of the Crack Trade." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20, 1996.

Kaye, Jeffrey. "Drug Conspiracy?" The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. PBS, Nov. 18, 1996.

Kornbluh, Peter. "Crack, Contras and the CIA: The Storm over Dark Alliance." Columbia Journalism Review, Jan./Feb. 1997.

Kurtz, Howard. "Running with the CIA Story." Washington Post, Oct. 2, 1996.
<-> "CIA Hooking Blacks on Crack? That's Not Quite the Story." Washington Post, Oct. 4, 1996.
<-> "Editor Criticizes His Paper's CIA Series." Washington Post, May 14, 1997.

Lane, Charles. "An Imaginary Conspiracy." Baltimore Sun, Nov. 8, 1996.

Lewis, Claude. "CIA Drug Plot? Blacks Didn't Have to Use Them." Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 30, 1996.

McManus, Doyle. "Examining Charges of CIA Role in Crack Sales." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1996.

Maxwell, Bill. "It's Time to Put the Scapegoats out to Pasture." Memphis Commercial Appeal, Oct. 20, 1996.

Memphis Commercial Appeal, editorial. "A Destructive Newspaper Series." Memphis Commercial Appeal, May 14, 1997.

Merina, Victor, and William Rempel. "Ex-Associates Doubt Onetime Drug Trafficker's Claim of CIA Ties." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1996.

Mitchell, Andrea. "Crack Cocaine, the CIA and Oliver North." NBC News: In Depth, Nov. 16, 1996.

Mitchell, John, and Sam Fullwood III. "History Fuels Outrage over Crack Allegations." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 23, 1996.

Muller, Judy. "Crack and the CIA: Conspiracy or Myth?" ABC News Nightline, Nov. 15, 1996.

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<-> "What Did the CIA Know and When Did It Know It?" Baltimore Sun, Nov. 16, 1996.

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<-> "CIA, Drugs and the National Press." Consortium, Dec. 23, 1996.

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<-> "Contra­Crack Controversy Continues." The Consortium, Jan. 6, 1997.

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<-> "Internal Investigator Extends Probe of CIA-Contra Crack Cocaine Allegations." Washington Post, Oct. 12, 1996.
<-> "A Long History of Drug Allegations." Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1996.
<-> "Justice Opens Probe on CIA Drug Charges." Washington Post, Sept. 13, 1996.
<-> "CIA Finds No Link to Cocaine Sales." Washington Post, Dec. 18, 1997.

Purdum, Todd. "Exposé on Crack was Flawed, Paper Says." New York Times, May 13, 1997.

Randolph, Eleanor, and John M. Broder. "Cyberspace Contributes to Volatility of Allegations." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 22, 1996.

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St. Petersburg Times, editorial. "An Editor Comes Clean." St. Petersburg Times, May 15, 1997.

San Jose Mercury News, staff report. "'Dark Alliance' Reporter Resigns." San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 13, 1997.

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Stein, M. L. "Reporter Reined In." Editor and Publisher, June 21, 1997.

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Waters, Lou. "Journalist Points to CIA Involvement in Drugs." (Interview with Gary Webb and Ronald Kessler.) CNN Today, Sept. 20, 1996.

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"Caught in the Middle: The CIA­Crack Story Put Black Reporters in a Bind." Time. May 26, 1997.

Wickham, DeWayne. "Clinton Must Act on CIA/Crack Case." Tampa Tribune, Oct. 21, 1996.

Source Part 2: