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CBS' Urge to Purge

Lost in the folly of the 'CBS Report' – and the subsequent purges – is the fact that the story behind it is the truth.
 
 
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"Independent" my ass. CBS' cowardly purge of five journalists who exposed George Bush's dodging of the Vietnam War draft was done under cover of what the network laughably called an "Independent Review Panel."

The "panel" was just two guys as qualified for the job as they are for landing the space shuttle: Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi.

Remember Dickie Thornburgh? He was on the Bush 41 administration's payroll. His grand accomplishment as Bush's attorney general was to whitewash the investigation of the Exxon Valdez Oil spill, letting the oil giant off the hook on big damages. Thornburgh's fat pay as counsel to Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, the Washington law-and-lobbying outfit, is substantially due to his job as a Bush retainer. This is the kind of stinky conflict of interest that hardly suggests "independent." Why not just appoint Karl Rove as CBS' grand inquisitor and be done with it?

Then there's Boccardi, not exactly a prince of journalism. This is the gent who, as CEO of the Associated Press, spiked his own wire service's exposure of Oliver North and his traitorous dealings with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Legendary AP investigative reporters Robert Parry and Brian Barger found their stories outing the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 stopped by their bosses. They did not know that Boccardi was on those very days deep in the midst of talks with North, participating in the conspiracy.

Today I spoke with Parry at his home in Virginia. He was sympathetic to Boccardi who at the time was trying to spring AP reporter Terry Anderson held hostage in Iran. But to do so, Boccardi joined, unwittingly, in a criminal conspiracy to trade guns for hostages. He then spiked his own news agency's investigation of it. Parry later discovered a 1986 e-mail from North to John Poindexter in which North notes that Boccardi "is supportive of our terropism (sic) policy" and wants to keep the story "quiet." Poindexter was indicted, then pardoned. Boccardi was not, and there is no indication he knew he was abetting a crime. But the AP demoted journalist Barger and forced him to quit for – the offense of trying to report the biggest story of the decade. This hardly gives Mr. Spike the qualification to pass judgment on working journalists.

And who are the journalists whom CBS has burned at the corporate stake? The first lined up for career execution is 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. Besides the Bush draft-dodge story, Mapes produced the exposé of the torture at Abu Ghraib when other networks had the same material and buried it.

I admit to a soft spot for Mapes. Four years ago, BBC Television London broadcast my report that Jeb Bush had wrongly purged thousands of African-Americans from the voter rolls, thereby fixing the election for his big brother. CBS Evening News ran away scared from the story, as did ABC and other U.S. networks. This year, when Bush tried to repeat the trick, Mapes wanted to put it on 60 Minutes . However, after the draft-dodge story hullabaloo, that was not going to happen.

And what was the crime committed by Mapes and, let's not forget, Dan Rather, whose career was also toasted by the story?

CBS said, "The Panel found that Mapes ignored information that cast doubt on the story she had set out to report – that President Bush had received special treatment 30 years ago, getting to the [Texas Air National] Guard ahead of many other applicants ... ."

Well, excuse me, but that story is stone cold solid, irrefutable, backed-up, sourced, proven to a fare-thee-well. I know, because I'm one of the reporters who broke that story ... way back in 1999, for the Guardian papers of Britain. No one has challenged the Guardian report, or my follow-up for BBC Television, whatsoever, though we've begged the White House for a response from our self-proclaimed "war president."

CBS did not "break" this Chicken-Hawk George story; it's just that Dan Rather, with Mapes' encouragement, found his journalistic soul and the cojones, finally, after 5 years delay, to report it. Did Bush get special treatment to get into the Guard? Baby Bush tested in the 25th percentile out of 100. Yet, he leaped ahead of thousands of other Vietnam evaders because the then-speaker of the Texas legislature sent a message to Gen. Craig Rose, head of the Guard, to let in Little George and a few other sons of well-placed politicos.

[See some of the documentation and a clip from the BBC Television report]

Mapes and Rather did make a mistake, citing a memo which could not be authenticated. But let's get serious folks: this "Killian" memo had not a darn thing to do with the story-in-chief – the president's using his daddy's connections to duck out of Vietnam. The Killian memo was a goofy little addition to the story (not included in my Guardian or BBC reports).

So CBS inquisitors took this minor error and used it to discredit the story and ruin careers of reporters who allowed themselves an unguarded moment of courage. And, crucial to the network's real agenda, this nonsensical distraction allowed the White House to resurrect the fake reputation of George Bush as Vietnam-era top gun.

CBS executives' model was clearly the hatchet job done on BBC news last year by the so-called "Hutton Report." In that case, some used-up lordship viciously attacked the BBC's ballsy uncovering of an official lie: that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Lord Hutton seized on a minor error by one reporter to attempt to discredit the entire BBC investigation of governmental mendacity.

In Britain, the public stood with the "Beeb." But in my own country, the American press itself, notably The New York Times , has joined in the lynch mob, repeating the allegations against the investigative reporters without any independent verification of the charges whatsoever.

I would note that neither CBS nor The New York Times punished a single reporter for passing on, as hard news, the Bush administration fibs and whoppers about Saddam Hussein's nuclear and biological weapons programs. Shameful repetitions of propaganda produced no resignations – indeed, picked up an Emmy or two.

Yes, I believe heads should roll at CBS: those of the "news" chieftains who for five years ignored the screaming evidence about George Bush's dodging the draft during the war in Vietnam.

At the top of the network's craven and dead wrong apology to the president is that cyclopsian CBS eyeball. But I suspect that CBS itself has little interest in eating its own flesh. This vile spike-after-broadcast serves only its master, the owner of CBS, Viacom Corporation.

"From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on ... . I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one."

That more-than-revealing statement, made weeks before the presidential election, by Sumner Redstone, billionaire honcho of CBS' parent company, wasn't reported on CBS. Why not? Someone should investigate.

Viacom needs the White House to bless its voracious and avaricious need to bust current ownership and trade rules to add to its global media monopoly. Placing the severed heads of reporters who would question the Bush mythology on the White House doorstep will certainly ease the way for Viacom's ambitions.

At the least, at the upcoming inaugural parties, CBS' ruler Redstone can expect that White House occupants will give him a standing Rove-ation.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller “ The Best Democracy Money Can Buy ."