Book Propaganda?

While it is expected that the operatives in political campaigns, including the principals, will use about any means they consider necessary in the matter of winning elections, the outside efforts this year have been highly significant, particularly in the world of the written word, especially as applied to the opponents of the president. The O'Neill, Clarke, Woodward, Wilson, and Clinton books comprise a case in point, not just because they are so critical of Bush (at least the first four mentioned), but because they are being released during the quadrennial circus known as the presidential campaign and therefore become part of the information/propaganda machine designed to deep-six Bush.

I haven't read the books, but I have read about them, as is the case with nearly 100 percent of citizens, or at least about all of those who ever pay attention to books, in the first place. Former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill is perhaps most famous for his well-publicized fact-finding African tour with rock-singer Bono. Concerning Africa, it seems he could just as easily have read the reports of this nation's intelligence agencies of one kind or another, or those of other nations. That he performed poorly at Treasury precipitated his firing, but the firing could perhaps be the reason for enough angst to write a book, The Price of Loyalty, that could hurt the president's chances for reelection.

Richard Clarke, author of Against All Enemies, thoroughly discredited himself in his appearance before the "9/11 Commission," and looked foolish in his super-piety in apologizing to victims' families on behalf of the United States for the 9/11 WTC tragedies, as if anyone with common sense or intellect of any level could have foreseen a monstrous happening like that. When he was caught up by a reporter's tape of a previous outing with news-people, he tried to bluff his way out of an outright lie tendered to the commission members, but only made himself look even more dishonest. Amazingly, he has admitted that it was by his permission as "terrorism czar," rather than permission by any other government official, including the president, that Saudis were allowed to leave the country after the 9/11 debacle, when no one else was. Perhaps that fact is in his book, necessitating the admission. One of his main charges in his commission appearance was that the Iraqi conflict has diverted resources from the Afghanistan action, but events on the ground obviously prove him wrong. His appearance on the CBS Sixty Minutes TV program with a gushing Leslie Stahl represented propaganda at its best…or worst.

Bob Woodward of the Washington Post is responsible for the book Plan of Attack, a premise of which seems to be that Iraq was the target of choice in the White House from the get-go, though 9/11 got in the way and necessitated a side trip into Afghanistan. In his appearance on Sixty Minutes (so what else is new?) he seems to have created a different atmosphere from the one offered in his book, considerably softening things.

How credible is Woodward? He and partner Carl Bernstein brought forth All the President's Men, the famous supposedly non-fiction book about Watergate, a number of years ago, in which was included a character called Deep Throat, a highly placed government official with whom one of the protagonists met for the purpose of getting information leading to their nailing of the Nixon White House. There probably was no such actual character, whose identity Woodward and Bernstein said they would not reveal until his death. They could pick out any "highly placed insider" who had died, of course, and thus name someone who could neither verify nor deny their claim. Nice. Woodward also claimed to have had a conversation with former CIA director Bill Casey shortly before he died, but it is doubtful that anyone takes that claim seriously, just on the basis of the facts surrounding Casey's last days, as well as the statements made by people close to Casey. Woodward's credibility is no better than Clarke's, but his book provides a useful propaganda tool for the democrats this time around.

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson's book, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, is perhaps the most egregious of all the books, not least because Wilson has been outed as a profound liar, negating anything he might say about anything at any time. He lied about the fact that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, had anything to do with his appointment as a special investigator to determine if Iraq was attempting to buy "yellow-cake," a material useful for making nuclear weapons, from the African nation of Niger. Apparently, she had everything to do with it. Added to that lie of Wilson's was the lie that no such attempt had been made by Iraq, when there was ample evidence as proven by intelligence agencies of other countries that such an attempt was made. In other words, the famous "16 words" in Bush's State of the Union Address in 2003, claimed by many of his opponents to constitute an untruth, were right on target, and, indeed, Wilson's actual findings enhanced the president's position.

The "betrayal" mentioned in the book's title was carried out by syndicated-columnist and TV talk-show maven Robert Novak, who publicized the fact that Plame was a CIA operative. Novak has claimed "source immunity" for not naming the government officials who gave him that information, and the government, having investigated the affair intensely, has never attempted to force him to do so. So, did any government official give Novak that information? Who knows, since only Novak's word has been operative thus far? Could Wilson himself have arranged for Novak, a rabid and outspoken opponent of the Iraqi action, to get the information? Who knows, but the question is certainly worth asking? Was there actually a Deep Throat, an informer, in this matter, or did Novak just dig up the information? Who knows? The credibility gap is huge, especially since the government has bent over backwards to cooperate in the investigations. Wilson, in his public announcements, has excoriated the president, but Wilson is a pathetic liar, so his book represents an obvious attempt to present blatant propaganda in an election year.

As for Clinton's book, it's all a matter of timing. Its release seems to have had little effect thus far, however, and mostly merely represents a tremendous payday for the ex-president. The reviews have not been kind for the monstrously large volume. Clinton has much to hide, so the obvious conclusion could be that the book's main focus is on simple obfuscation. One thing is certain, to wit, that on his eight-year watch terrorism was hardly addressed and certainly not substantively affected, even though terrorist activities cost many American lives. Happening only eight months after Bush took office, 9/11 can be almost completely laid at the feet of Bill Clinton and his team, if blame is to be assigned. The recent pilfering of sensitive documents from classified archives by Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger, also until the other day a principle adviser to John Kerry, only enhances the notion that skullduggery marked the Clinton/Berger/Albright handling of world affairs, and that Kerry may be attuned to the mindset of the Clinton administration, which, primarily, was to do nothing.

In any case, the use of the written word - in book form - has risen to new heights as a propaganda vehicle…or, to new lows.