Up, and "B.S. Away!"
By Bernard Weiner, The
The Silicon Valley scientist-friend who introduced me to
"B.S. Away" several months ago* invited me to visit again
for a second tryout of his new truth-spray invention. After
watching Condoleezza Rice's slip-and-slide performance before
the 9/11 Commission, and the U.S. military spin on the unraveling
events in Iraq, I couldn't resist.
"Your spray worked like magic last time," I said. "I know
before your patent is granted that you're not allowed to tell
me too much about how it works, but, just between you and
me, how does it work?"
"Quit kidding around and just use the stuff," he replied,
and handed me a little spray bottle. I raced home to try it
again, on Rice and Iraq-spin and Ashcroft.
I found a re-broadcast of Condi's testimony and spritzed
the "B.S. Away" on the TV. Here's what I got:
CONDI'S MASK SLIPS AWAY
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had rehearsed for three days
how to spin and filibuster your questions about the Administration's
pre-9/11 knowledge - you know, the structural reforms of the
intelligence bureaucracies weren't yet in place, we were doing
everything we could to prepare our Al Qaida offensive, we
didn't know what was about to happen, the FBI and CIA dropped
the ball and didn't connect the dots, and anyway whatever
went wrong wasn't our fault. But then I just decided to come
in and tell it like it was.
"When we first moved into the White House, we were kind
of fixated on larger issues, such as how we could transform
Islam in the Middle East and control the stability of the
oil flow in a world fast running out of petroleum reserves,
and how we could get a military foothold in Iraq to assert
our dominance in the area. Besides, we were suspicious: the
outgoing Administration was warning us so much about the dangers
posed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida that we thought the
Clintons were trying to set us up, so we stayed away from
their recommendations like the plague. We didn't ignore terrorism,
but we weren't focusing on it either. We left that concern
to Dick Clarke to obsess about and made sure to keep him away
from the wielders of power. We had a different agenda in preparation.
"Because of Sen. Jeffords' defection from the GOP, we were
stymied in our domestic program in Congress, and our long-range
foreign/military policies were being tied up in diplomatic
complexities abroad. We needed something big, a catalyzing
event, that would alter the chemistry of our political prospects.
"In the summer of 2001, things started to materialize for
us along those lines: We got all those warnings about a spectacular
Al Qaida attack that was planned for inside the U.S., probably
by airplane and aimed at unspecified but guessable icon targets
in New York and Washington, D.C. (We even ran a test run on
such a disaster at the Pentagon, a drill that assumed a large
plane had crashed into it.) Bush hightailed it out of Washington
and went to ground in Texas for a month; Ashcroft stopped
flying on commercial jets; somebody was buying huge amounts
of airline stock 'puts' on the assumption the price would
p lummet, and so on.
"We'd been briefed and were getting direct calls from various
countries' intelligence services passing on anxious warnings,
so we sure as hell knew something major was about to go down,
even if we didn't know the exact date and targets. So, we
decided simply to look the other way about the imminent Al
Qaida attack, whenever and whatever it turned out to be -
and, like Pearl Harbor in 1941, to use the ensuing tragedy
to wake up the country to our new situation in the world.
"After the attacks, we cobbled together a lot of old bills
that the Congress had refused to pass in previous years because
of civil-liberties problems, wrapped them inside a few genuine
national-security measures that everyone could agree on, and
rushed the Patriot Act through a frightened Congress still
reeling from 9/11 and the anthrax scare. Passage of the Patriot
Act made it easier to get things done domestically without
having constantly to deal with Constitutional prohibitions.
We began moving more assertively abroad, without having to
worry about anyone stopping us - or being restrained by, or
having to share power with, the United Nations or any other
group - since we were the only superpower left standing.
"I guess we thought and hoped the Al Qaida attack would
involve only some localized bombings and maybe one plane that
might get hijacked and crashed into an out-of-the-way government
structure or a military base or something like that; lots
of death and destruction but a small price to pay for the
freedom to move on our important work. We never wanted to
believe that a whole fleet of commercial jets could be taken
over and used as fuel-laden missiles against huge skyscrapers
and major government centers of power, and that 3000 people
"But once our doing-nothing deed was done, we had to keep
going, and the coverup began. A few savvy liberal and internet
analysts sussed out the truth pretty early - and later our
secret made its way into the mainstream press; after the essence
of the August 6, 2001 PDB was revealed, we were horrified
at that huge headline May 16, 2002 in the New York Post: "BUSH
KNEW!" But the country was still too scared to think those
thoughts in that early period. Instead, just as we hoped would
happen, the citizenry rallied around the President and, when
we invaded Afghanistan, around the flag as well.
"There were calls for an early investigation of how 9/11
happened, but Cheney went to Gephardt and Daschle and headed
off any Congressional probes - 'national security,' you know.
So we had a free ride up until relatively recently, when we
had to cave in to the victims' families and OK an 'independent'
9/11 commission. We thought, given the veteran insiders we
appointed, that they'd skim over the surface of the facts
- especially when we didn't provide them many. We delayed
and delayed and postponed and postponed, but the public pressure
was getting so intense, we had to give them some documents
we would have preferred to keep secret.
"Anyway, to sum up: Our 9/11 crime was looking the other
way for our own purposes; power-hunger will do that to good
people sometimes. Our long-range intentions seemed honorable
to us at the time. I apologize to all the families who suffered
due to our incompetence and hunger for control. We can't bring
your loved ones back. We can't guarantee that there won't
be another major terrorist attack. But we as leaders, and
we as a country, this time can try to cut those chances to
an absolute minimum. I ask for your understanding and forgiveness.
And I hereby tender my resignation."
Next, I listened to Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and
the military chiefs trying to downplay the unraveling of U.S.
control over the situation in Iraq and the beginnings of a
countrywide intifada. Out with the "B.S. Away," and in with
a more truthful version. Said Rumsfeld:
"We're in a devil of a fix. Because the whole premise of
the war was based on lies and deceptions - we built up Saddam
as a mad monster, with huge stockpiles of WMD, and believed
that the Iraqis, so happy to be liberated, eagerly would work
with us to establish the kind of system we wanted for them
- we weren't able to deal with, or even to appreciate, the
situation as it really was.
"We understood neither Iraqi nor tribal culture, nor the
religious complexities, nor the strength of nationalist feelings.
And, even though we weren't guarding the armament dumps around
Iraq, we did not anticipate the swiftness with which large
elements of the Iraqi population could generate an insurgent
response to our occupation. In short, we did very well with
Plan A - our 'shock-and-awe' military phase that overthrew
the Saddam regime - but we had no Plan B ready to go for the
post-war restructuring of Iraqi society, in a hostile environment.
"We rushed way too fast into our initial military attack
(so as to make the war a fait accompli before the U.N. or
the American people could put roadblocks in our way), and
then tried to nation-build with the soldiers who had just
destroyed so much of the country; naturally, we ran into problems.
We hand-picked malleable Iraqis and put them into power as
an interim governing body, and then were surprised that so
many Iraqis regarded them as our puppets.
"Rove and Cheney and Bush want our troops out of the main
killing areas by June 30, because of the American election
campaign, but, given the level of violence right now - and
the scary signs of possible mergers between Shia and Sunni
forces - we may not even make it to June 30. And even if we
do, to whom do we turn over the supposed domestic 'sovereignty'
of the country? And will this stop the growing strength of
Wolfowitz, misted with some "B.S. Away," said:
"I don't know what we should do. We're between a rock and
a hard place. None of this complexity was taught at the Neoconservative
institutes and organizations like AIE and PNAC. That was all
theory. Now we're in reality - and it's ugly and messy and
total chaos. We totally wanted to believe what Chalabi and
his Iraqi exile-friends were telling us, and we're paying
the price for our ideological blinders.
"Yes, we were wrong about trying to do these wars on the
cheap, counting on our technological might to frighten populations
and leaders into submission. One way we could move would be
to bring in a hundred thousand more troops to try to quell
the nationalist insurgency and to deal with Sadr's fundamentalist
army. But if we do that, it'll really look like Vietnam all
over again, constantly sending in more and more troops - who
will be forced to treat all Iraqis as potential enemies, which
will make us more hated and reviled - and then having to negotiate
for an ignominious exit down the road. The Democrats would
eat us alive.
"Or we could can go hat in hand to the United Nations and
offer them shared, or even full, authority if they'll come
in with an international peacekeeping force - if they would
even consider something like that, given how we humiliated
them before we launched our war, and how things are falling
apart there. If they decide not to come in and help out, preferring
that we stew in our own juices, we're back to square one.
"Or we could cut our losses, declare victory in ridding
the country of a tyrant and setting up rudimentary democratic
institutions, and simply leave. In which case, not only would
there be hell to pay electorally for our policy debacle and
all the deaths we caused for nothing, but the radical, anti-American
Islamists woul gain control, and we would have to abandon
our entire Middle East strategy of altering and modernizing
the face of Islam and maintaining control of that oil-rich
"My guess is that Rove-Cheney-Bush will decide to pour more
troops into the battle, if only to prolong the inevitable
withdrawal until after Election Day in November. Use the American
troops as our electoral shield, as it were. If we lose the
war after we win the election, we'll deal with the unfolding
situation at that time, even if we have to make it up as we
go along. If we lose the election, let the Democrats handle
that hot potato. Damn those neocon theorists! Wait a minute,
I'm one of the main ones. My bad."
Attorney General John Ashcroft wants to expand the Patriot
Act - because, he claims, it doesn't give him enough police
powers to go after terrorists - even though more than 200
cities and states have approved resolutions against the worst
aspects of that hastily-passed law. I took the bottle and
sprayed a number of his speeches, and here's what Ashcroft
"Well, yes, we didn't pay that much attention to combatting
Al Qaida, neither before nor after 9/11. We needed the terrorists
(and still need them) for our own purposes - they are a positively
frightening, murderous group - just as the terrorists need
us as the Great Satan to energize their radical Islamic hordes.
"Without their terror, we wouldn't have been able to get
the Patriot Act OKd and all the other extraconstitutional
measures passed or authorized by me or Bush. Sure, we probably
need those measures to help in our hunt for terrorists, but
we only catch one or two real bad guys that way. The real
pleasure for me is using our police powers to scares folks
from dissenting, and in reining in immoral behavior. It's
amazing: I can accomplish this simply by invoking politically-magic
phrases - 'national security' and 'the war on terrorism.'
Is America a great country or what?
"I testified before the 9/11 Commission this week, and I
had to lie and spin like crazy to get out of those questions.
I wonder if they believed me when I said I never saw the famous
August 6, 2001 PDB memo about Al Qaida's plans for domestic
"But Condi was a good role model: No matter what question
they ask you, stick to your talking points - hindsight is
20-20, we were actively engaged in anti-terrorism programs,
national security was our prime concern, we had no specific
information, we didn't know anything that we could operate
on, those beneath me didn't connect the dots, it's their fault,
the dog at my homework, and so on.
"I even rehearsed the Ashcroft Glare for those times when
they got too close to 'national security' matters - meaning,
of course, too close to embarrassing revelations. But that
may not work as well this time out. It's a different climate
than right after 9/11, and I'm not sure we can totally count
on all of our Republican appointees to the commission to toe
"Oh well, if worst comes to worst, we'll take the hit from
their report that's due out in July, and spin like crazy.
Besides, the election isn't until November and the American
people are notoriously forgetful and intolerant of 'old news.'
Besides, I can 100% guarantee that we'll be able to distract
their attention from our gross failures. We'll get through
this, and, after victory in November - or if the election
has to be postponed because of terrorism - we'll take care
of those who tried to do us in. A whole lot of people are
going to be 'vacationing' in Git... "
I tried to give another spray to Ashcroft to hear the rest
of that threat, but the bottle was dry. Oh well, I'd heard
enough anyway for today. You don't have to be a weatherman
to know which way the B.S. is blowing.
* You can read about the first experiment, "B. S. Away!"
- The Miracle Truth-Spray," here.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D, has taught government & international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor
for the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently
co-edits the progressive website The