Mr. Palast wrote this piece for publication on
September 21. We believe the subsequent CBS News disavowal of
one document among an ever-mounting pile of evidence, does
not in the least diminish the case against Texas Air National
Lt. George Bush – a story of privilege, dishonesty and hypocrisy
that Greg Palast has covered for more than five years.
"It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest
of the tough questions," the aging American journalist told
the British television audience.
In June 2002, Dan Rather looked old, defeated,
making a confession he dare not speak on American TV about the
deadly censorship – and
self-censorship – which had seized US newsrooms. After September
11, news on the US tube was bound and gagged. Any reporter
who stepped out of line, he said, would be professionally lynched
"It's an obscene comparison," he said, "but there
was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires
around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the
fear is that you will be necklaced here. You will have a
flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck." No
US reporter who values his neck or career will "bore in on
the tough questions."
Dan said all these things to a British audience.
However, back in the USA, he smothered his conscience and told
his TV audience: "George
Bush is the President. He makes the decisions. He wants me to line
up, just tell me where."
During the war in Vietnam, Dan's predecessor
at CBS, Walter Cronkite, asked some pretty hard questions about
Nixon's handling of the
war in Vietnam. Today, our sons and daughters are dying in
Bush wars. But, unlike Cronkite, Dan could not, would not,
question George Bush, Top Gun Fighter Pilot, Our Maximum Beloved
Leader in the war on terror.
On the British broadcast, without his network
minders snooping, you could see Dan seething and deeply unhappy
with himself for
playing the game.
"What is going on," he said, "I'm sorry to say,
is a belief that the public doesn't need to know – limiting access,
limiting information to cover the backsides of those who are in
charge of the war. It's extremely dangerous and cannot and should
not be accepted, and I'm sorry to say that up to and including
this moment of this interview, that overwhelmingly it has been
accepted by the American people. And the current Administration
revels in that, they relish and take refuge in that."
Dan's words had a poignant personal ring for
me. He was
speaking on Newsnight, BBC's nightly current affairs program, which
broadcasts my own reports. I do not report for BBC, despite
its stature, by choice. The truth is, if I want to put a
hard, investigative report about the USA on the nightly news, I
have to broadcast it in exile, from London. For Americans
my broadcasts are stopped at an electronic Berlin wall.
Indeed, Dan is in hot water for a report my
own investigative team put in Britain's Guardian papers and on
BBC TV years ago. Way
back in 1999, I wrote that former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes
had put in the fix for little George Bush to get out of 'Nam and
into the Air Guard.
What is hot news this month in the USA is a
five-year-old story to the rest of the world. And you still wouldn't see it in
the USA except that Dan Rather, with a 60 Minutes producer, finally
got fed up and ready to step out of line. And, as Dan predicted,
he stuck out his neck and got it chopped off.
Is Rather's report accurate? Is George W. Bush a war hero
or a privileged little Shirker-in-Chief? Today I saw a goofy two
page spread in the Washington Post about a typewriter used to write
a memo with no significance to the draft-dodge story. What
I haven't read about in my own country's media is about two crucial
documents supporting the BBC/CBS story. The first is Barnes'
signed and sworn affidavit to a Texas Court, from 1999, in which
he testifies to the Air Guard fix – which Texas Governor George
W. Bush, given the opportunity, declined to challenge.
And there is a second document, from the files
of the US Justice Department, again confirming the story of the
fix to keep George's
white bottom out of Vietnam. That document, shown last year
in the BBC television documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," correctly
identifies Barnes as the bag man even before his 1999 confession.
At BBC, we also obtained a statement from the
man who made the call to the Air Guard general on behalf of Bush
at Barnes' request. Want
to see the document? I've posted it on my Website.
This is not a story about Dan Rather. The white millionaire
celebrity can defend himself without my help. This is really
a story about fear, the fear that stops other reporters in the
US from following the evidence about this Administration to where
it leads. American news guys and news gals, practicing their
smiles, adjusting their hairspray levels, bleaching their teeth
and performing all the other activities that are at the heart of
US TV journalism, will look to the treatment of Dan Rather and
say, "Not me, babe." No questions will be asked,
as Dan predicted, lest they risk necklacing and their careers as
news actors burnt to death.
"Bush Family Fortunes," the one-hour
documentary taken from Greg Palast's BBC investigative reports,
the story of George Bush and Texas Air Guard, can be viewed,
in part, at http://www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm.