WHAT ASSASSINATION PLOT?
* Scott Sherman writes: A few weeks ago, Slate asked a number of “liberal hawks”–among them George Packer, Kenneth Pollack, Thomas Friedman, Paul Berman and Fareed Zakaria –to reflect on their support for the Iraq war [see Eric Alterman, page 10]. For several days, Slate readers witnessed a steady stream of linguistic acrobatics, graceful, guilt-ridden prose and, in some cases, genuine contrition. But if contributors like Pollack and Slate editor Jacob Weisberg expressed deep misgivings about their initial support for military intervention, they accepted Administration claims that, in Weisberg’s words, “Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush.” Weisberg and Pollack echoed what Bush himself said of Saddam in 2002: “This is a guy that tried to kill my dad.” Is Saddam guilty as charged? Backtrack to spring 1993, when the Clinton Administration announced that Iraqi intelligence had attempted to assassinate George Bush Sr. with a car bomb during a ceremonial visit to Kuwait. In retaliation Clinton ordered a missile attack on Baghdad, which killed eight civilians. Our knowledge of the plot against Bush might have ended there if not for the efforts of Seymour Hersh, who revisited the episode in a lengthy piece for The New Yorker in November 1993. After numerous interviews with high-ranking US and Kuwaiti officials, along with electrical engineers and bomb experts, Hersh concluded that the key suspects in the plot were beaten (and possibly tortured) by Kuwaiti authorities, and that “there is no evidence that any of the alleged assassins took any overt steps to deploy any bombs.” In February 2003, in a little-noticed article, the Baltimore Sun disclosed that “the former FBI chemist who tested the explosive recovered in Kuwait says he told superiors it did not match known Iraqi explosives”–a fact that does much to bolster Hersh’s reporting. Do Weisberg and Pollack know something Hersh doesn’t? One can only speculate, since they didn’t return phone calls.
SUPER CENSORSHIP BOWL
John Nichols writes: This year’s Super Bowl was set to feature the usual clash of football teams and the clash of rival beer company claims during the advertising breaks. But the clash of ideas was censored. CBS refused to permit the MoveOn.org Voter Fund to buy time during the game for a commercial criticizing the Bush deficit. (The spot shows children working at adult jobs with the tag line “Guess who’s going to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion deficit?”) The network said the ad was too “controversial” for Super Bowl showing. Pointing to the network’s willingness to accept Super Bowl ads for beer, R-rated movies and Bob Dole’s solution to erectile dysfunction, MoveOn asked why a thirty-second reflection on deficit spending was too controversial for public consumption. CBS’s warped definition of “controversial” speech, and the network’s willingness to use that definition to justify censorship even of mainstream ideas, highlights the danger of allowing any one network to get too big. Viacom, the company that owns CBS, has been at the forefront of lobbying to ease limits on media consolidation and monopoly. And the Bush Administration, which CBS is now protecting from criticism, went to the mat to defend the Federal Communications Commission decision to rewrite rules to favor the big media corporations like Viacom. With its censorship of the MoveOn ad during the highly viewed Super Bowl game, CBS proves that dissident FCC commissioner Michael Copps was right when he said, “Diversity in advertising, just like diversity of viewpoint, depends on diversity of ownership.” (To learn more about the CBS decision and the fight against media monopoly, visit www.mediareform.net.)