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“AMBUSH AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

After being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.  

Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.  

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from an article he had written four years earlier.

Trump had earlier said the article proved that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Kovaleski had insisted there was no credible proof of such celebrations.  

Angered at being contradicted, Trump mocked Kovaleski: He flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”

Image result for Images of Serge Kovaleski

Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

At the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, Streep denounced this behavior that “broke my heart.”

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. 

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

Streep’s words outraged Trump’s supporters–especially his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway. 

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts. 

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”

Conway didn’t say what common ground Streep should find with Trump. Perhaps agreeing on mocking the disabled? 

Image result for Images of Kellyanne Conway

Kelleyanne Conway

Then Conway visited CNN’s “New Day,” where she offered a “black-is-white” defense for Trump’s videotaped ridiculing of Kovaleski: It didn’t happen.  

The host, Chris Cuomo, having seen the video, wasn’t buying it.

CUOMO: But is [Streep] wrong? Is she wrong that it was wrong for Trump to make gestures like that about a man with disabilities?  

CONWAY: He didn’t–but that is not what he did and he has said that a thousand times. As he tweeted out today–

CUOMO: He can say it a million. Look at the video.

CONWAY: Why can’t you–wait, excuse me. Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt the way the benefit of the doubt was given to CNN’s polling, all of its analysts?

CUOMO: Because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video talking about Serge.

CONWAY: Not about that reporter and that’s just a fact. That is what he’s said. You should give him–

CUOMO: But how is it not about the reporter?

CONWAY: –the deference and respect if he says that it was–he was not mocking, he was mocking the groveling. He said it again this morning. He has three tweets out about it.

CUOMO: But he’s doing a gesture that goes right to the guy’s vulnerability.

CONWAY: You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar and you shouldn’t.

CUOMO: Look, Kellyanne, to me that’s like you’re trying to scare me off the point and we both know it’s a waste of time.

CONWAY: I’m not going to scare you off anything.

CUOMO: He’s making a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is. 

CONWAY: And now you’re giving oxygen to what Meryl Streep said.

CUOMO: Forget about Meryl Streep. This happened before her. If our kids did that, could you imagine what we would say to them?  

Conway said she would not bring her children into the discussion.

CUOMO: I will. If my kid did something like that, it’d be a really tough day.

CONWAY: You have to listen to what the president has said about that. Why don’t you believe him? 

Conway tried to change the subject to Hillary Clinton: “She was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly.”  

When Cuomo asked for specifics, she refused to give them.  Then she returned to claiming that Trump had never mocked Kovaleski:

CONWAY: You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, when he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth, rather than look at what’s in his heart.  

* * * * *

Previously, politicians had defended themselves with arguments like: “You can see right here on the tape, I did (or, I didn’t)….”  

Trump has cast aside that logic–and the taped evidence–by demanding: “Believe what I’m telling you, not what you’ve just seen.”

By that rationale, if a security camera shows Trump robbing a bank at gunpoint, we’re supposed to believe him if he says: “No, I didn’t rob that bank. I was simply checking my bank balance.”

Such “logic” holds appeal for paid shills like Kelleyanne Conway. But most people will continue to judge by the evidence.

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2017 at 12:02 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore an illegitimate President.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

As his popularity fell to less than 1% among blacks, the managers of his campaign urged: Put the “birther” issue behind you.

So, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Image result for Images of Mark Shields and David Brooks on PBS Newshour

David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

Less than two months later, Trump won the Presidency.  

Since then, Trump has continued to inhabit what David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

The most recent example of this occurred on January 9, 2017.  

The night before, Meryl Streep had enraged Trump and his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

While being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, she had criticized Trump’s mocking, on November 25, 2015, of disabled New York Times reporter Serve Kovaleski:  

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. 

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.” 

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2017 at 12:10 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

In doing so, he entered into what conservative New York Times political columnist David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2017 at 12:02 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2016 at 1:31 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

In April, 2011, Obama released the long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Still, Trump questioned its–and Obama’s–legitimacy.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters–while 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

Related image

Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Image result for Images of Mark Shields and David Brooks on PBS Newshour

David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

* * * * *  

Americans were slow to recognize the dangers of their government’s committing armed forces to South Vietnam. But when the record of government lies reached critical mass, Americans demanded an end to the war.  

Similarly, Americans were reluctant to brand Richard Nixon, their newly-re-elected President, a criminal worthy of impeachment. But when the evidence of his criminality steadily mounted, they demanded his ouster.  

Today, Americans are flooded with overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness to become President. His narcissism, vindictiveness, ignorance and hair-trigger temper have been on public display for more than a year.  

Yet millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans plan to catapult this man–who “debased democracy, debased the national debate, appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us”–to the Presidency.

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

Related image

Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2016 at 12:09 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2016 at 3:03 pm

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

In April, 2011, Obama released the long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Still, Trump questioned its–and Obama’s–legitimacy.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters–while 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

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Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

* * * * *  

Americans were slow to recognize the dangers of their government’s committing armed forces to South Vietnam. But when the record of government lies reached critical mass, Americans demanded an end to the war.  

Similarly, Americans were reluctant to brand Richard Nixon, their newly-re-elected President, a criminal worthy of impeachment. But when the evidence of his criminality steadily mounted, they demanded his ouster.  

Today, Americans are flooded with overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness to become President. His narcissism, vindictiveness, ignorance and hair-trigger temper have been on public display for more than a year.  

Yet millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans plan to catapult this man–who “debased democracy, debased the national debate, appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us”–to the Presidency.

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

RIGHT-WING TREASON: FIRST FOX, NOW TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2016 at 12:08 am

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

The speaker was Donald Trump, holding a July 27 press conference in Doral, Fla.

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Donald Trump

And he was urging a foreign leader to hack into the private email server of his Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Five days earlier, Wikileaks had released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believe the hacking originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

Politicians on the Left and Right expressed outrage at Trump’s remarks.

But this is not the first time the Right has jeopardized American security.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, supporters of Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of leaking top-secret details of the U.S. Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The raid, launched on May 1, 2011, resulted in the death of the 9/11 mastermind and the capture of a treasury of highly sensitive Al Qaeda documents.

According to Right-wingers, Obama wanted to provide Hollywood screenwriters with material for a movie to glorify his role in authorizing the raid.

In August, 2012, the Right found its own secrets-leakers.  And they operated under the name of the Fox News Network.

Their motive: To promote a book–No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. It was slated to hit bookstores on September 11–the 11th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

It had been penned under the pseudonym “Mark  Owen.” But the real name of the author–a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team Six member who took part in the raid–was Matt Bissonnette, of Wrangell, Alaska.

Bissonnette’s real name became public after multiple sources leaked it to Fox News–who revealed it on August 23.

The Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden had previously been left unidentified.

Fox News had repeatedly accused President Obama and members of his administration of treasonously leaking military secrets to the media to glorify the President.

Many former and current SEAL members feared that the book would release information that could compromise future missions.

U.S. Navy SEALs insignia

One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?”  Some SEALs called Bissonnette a “traitor.”

And Colonel Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead. He’s the one who started this, so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this.”

But Bissonnette placed more than his own life in jeopardy. He endangered the lives of every one of the men who participated in the bin Laden raid.

If Bissonnette fell into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists or sympathizers, he could conceivably be tortured into revealing at least some of the names and locations of his former team members.

And Fox News not only revealed his true name but the town where he lived.

Even the liberal Nation magazine was appalled at the recklessness of this Right-wing propaganda outlet. Jeremy Scahill, a writer for Nation, tweeted:

“Why on earth would FOX News publish the alleged identity of one of the ST6 members who was in the OBL raid? Seriously.”

Millions of Right-wing Americans have been conditioned by decades of Fascistic propaganda to believe that:

  • Democrats are all traitors–or at least potential traitors.
  • Even those Democrats who aren’t traitors are too weak-kneed to protect the nation from its sworn enemies.
  • Democrats (have betrayed) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to the Soviet/Chinese Communists.
  • Democrats have (betrayed/) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to Islamic Jihadists.
  • Only Republicans can be trusted to protect the nation.

Republicans blamed President Harry S. Truman for “losing China” to the forces of Mao Tse Tung in 1949. America could not have prevented a corrupt and incompetent Chiang Kai-Shek from being driven off the Chinese mainland by Mao’s overwhelmingly powerful armies.

Then, in 1950, Senator “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy charged that the State Department was infested by Communists–and that the Truman administration knew it but refused to take action. The charges were false.

Joseph R. McCarthy

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Barack Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

Attacking the patriotism of their opponents has repeatedly elected Republicans:

  • It elected Dwight Eisenhower President and turned Congress Republican in 1952 and 1956.
  • It elected Richard Nixon President in 1968 and 1972.
  • It elected Ronald Reagan President in 1980 and 1984.
  • It elected George H.W. Bush President in 1988.
  • It gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994 (although Bill Clinton had been elected President in 1992).
  • It elected George W. Bush President in 2000 and 2004.
  • It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

And now Republicans hope this appeal will elect a man who has openly called on Vladimir Putin to hack into American computers.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 16, 2016 at 12:10 am

When Osama bin Laden died, two weapons were within easy reach–an AK-47 assault rifle and a Russian-made nine-millimeter Makarov pistol.

But according to his wife, Amal, he was shot by Navy SEALS before he could reach either one.

A SEAL flashed coded news of bin Laden’s death to the Pentagon and the White House Situation Room, where President Barack Obama and the topmost officials of his administration anxiously followed events via a closed-circuit television.

“Geronimo E-KIA” read the message: “Geronimo [bin Laden] E-KIA [Enemy Killed in Action].”    

The entire raid–including Intelligence sweeps of the compound–was over in less than 40 minutes. The SEALS moved quickly because they rightly feared that the Pakistani army would intervene to protect bin Laden.  

Bin Laden had been living undisturbed at a large compound in Abbottabad for at least five years, just a short distance from Pakistan’s version of West Point.

Furthermore, the ISI–Pakistan’s Intelligence agency–had long been riddled with Al-Qaeda sympathizers, if not agents.  

Within 24 hours of his death, Bin Laden’s body was transported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for final rites and burial at sea. 

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U.S.S. Carl Vinson

President Obama and other U.S. officials feared that his grave site would become a memorial for members of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations.  

In the late evening of May 1, 2011, the White House surprised major television networks by informing them that the President had a major announcement to make.

At 11:35 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, the President appeared at a podium in the East Room of the White House.  

“Good evening. Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States had conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children….

“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al-Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda.”  

He added that “no Americans were harmed” in the raid and that the SEALS had taken care to avoid civilian casualties.  

President Barack Obama announcing Osama bin Laden’s death

Like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, bin Laden had become a pale, largely irrelevant figure by the time of his death.

Knowing he was the world’s most wanted man, he imprisoned himself within a fortified compound–which he never left.  

Afraid to use a phone or the Internet, he relayed orders–which were often ignored–via the cumbersome use of couriers. All trash generated by the inhabitants of the compound was burned within its walls.

Ironically, the lack of Internet and phone lines to the compound–and the burning of its trash–had led CIA officials to suspect that Osama bin Laden might be hiding there.  

Pakistan was outraged. Officially an American ally, its territory had been secretly invaded by American military forces. Even more embarrassing: For years, Pakistani Intelligence had denied knowing bin Laden’s whereabouts.  

Meanwhile, leaders of Islamic expansionist groups rallied to praise the dead bin Laden. Among these was his son, Omar, who denounced his father’s killing as a “criminal” act, and his burial at sea as demeaning to the Islamic faith.  

In a letter published on the website of Islamic ideologue Abu Walid al-Masri, the younger bin Laden said the former Al-Qaeda leader’s children reserved the right to take legal action in the United States and internationally to “determine the true fate of our vanished father.” 

Bin Laden’s death drew protests from hundreds of people in the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, who burned American flags and paid homage to the late terrorist leader. 

On May 13, a pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people. It was the first act of retaliation for the killing of bin Laden.

Americans reacted differently.  

Almost as Obama was addressing the nation, cheering crowds gathered outside the White House and in New York City’s Times Square. Many of them shouted “USA! USA! USA!” and waved American flags in celebration. 

Celebration also broke out at the site of the former World Trade Center, the primary victim of the September 11 attacks. 

For the next two weeks, Americans continued to rejoice. Much of their feelings were best expressed in grisly humor on websites and late night comedy shows such as “Tonight” and “Late Night With  David Letterman.”  

Killing Osama bin Laden removed Al-Qaeda’s most important member. But its treasury of secret materials–such as computer hard-drives, DVDs, notebooks, diaries–proved even more important to American military and Intelligence officials. 

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Vietnam protesters marched carrying blown-up photos of Ernesto “Che” Guevara or tacked them to the walls of their dormitory rooms. 

Most of these college students were members of the middle-class which Guevara had so despised.  

Going on five years since the death of bin Laden, his poster has been noticeably absent from American college campuses–and everywhere else in the United States. 

It remains to be seen whether, decades from now, Osama bin Laden will attain the iconic status of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

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