How to Keep a Big Secret

You've heard the story about the time when Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson went camping, right?

After a day of investigating the great outdoors, the two detectives headed back to their camp site to get a good night's rest.

Holmes removed his hat and placed it next to his pipe as he crawled into his cot. Watson was already snuggled inside of his cot.

There wasn't a cloud in the night sky. Looking up from where Holmes and Watson had set up their camp, the sky looked like a planetarium. It appeared as if every visible star in the galaxy were sparkling in all of their cosmic splendor.

As Holmes and Watson lay on their backs facing the clear night sky, Holmes turned to his assistant and asked: "Watson, do you notice anything right now?"

"I certainly do. The starry sky is absolutely awe-inspiring," Watson said, gazing up-ward.

"No. Look closer, my dear Watson."

"Oh, I see it. The Big Dipper is very prominent this evening."

"For the love of Pete," Holmes said in frustration. "It's quite elementary, Watson. Someone stole our tent!"

If it wasn't so frightening it would be hilarious that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz and President Bush are pointing to the stars (hoping to get a few ahhs and ohhhs from the American public) as if it weren't obvious that someone has stole the tent.

First, we had Scott Ritter, a former Marine intelligence officer and a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, warning us long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq that Saddam's government didn't represent a regional threat, let alone a global threat because UNSCOM had disarmed Iraq 85 to 90 percent in the 1990s.

He knew that because he was the UNSCOM chief weapons inspector from 1991 to 1998. Ritter probably knew, and knows, more about Iraqi WMD capabilities (or lack thereof) than 99 percent of the human population. Yet, when Sen. Biden was having his pre-war hearings on the "threat" that Iraq did (not) pose, Ritter informed Biden's committee of his willingness to testify.

Biden ignored Ritter and other analysts with expertise on Iraq while Bush neo-con henchmen launched a character assassination campaign against Ritter, who turned out to be exactly right, though it didn't stop the true believers from disingenously arguing that the invasion wasn't really about WMD but about liberating the Iraqi people.

In correspondence with readers who make these arguments with a straight-face, I ask: have you read Ritter's two books on the subject: "Endgame" and "Frontier Justice." The answer is always no.

But if Ritter's treatment at the hands of Bush-backers didn't make you think about the cost of truth-telling, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's memoirs should have helped all of us see "The Price of Loyalty" under an administration that, in exemplary Orwellian fashion, insisted Iraq had been "delaying, denying and deceiving."

The Bush response to O'Neill's revelations? Discredit O'Neill. And don't forget Kevin Phillips' book "American Dynasty," which tells the story of how the Bush dynasty has undercut the bedrock of our democracy with Bush Jr. ascending to the office of presidency eight years after his father was voted out of office, largely because of the Bush family name.

"In any theory of democratic belief, 'restoration' and 'presidential legitimacy' are not terms that go well together. If anything, restoration, with its dependence on family and inheritance, necessarily promotes attitudes that, in a political system like that of the United States, undercut popular sovereignty. Democratic legitimacy is necessarily drawn in into question when succession via dynasty is accepted," Phillips writes.

Oh, did I mention that Phillips is a political commentator who comes out of the Republican Party and not some left-wing Chomsky-loving professor?

And now we have Richard Clarke's book "Against All Enemies." During the 9-11 Commission hearings last week, Republican commissioner Thompson tried to paint America's recently resigned top counterterrorism guy as someone who has changed his story.

Other partisan commissioners attempted to coax Clarke into saying that 9-11 happened because of Clinton administration incompetence, implying that Clinton didn't respond sufficiently to the terrorist threat facing America because, as the line goes, Democrats are "weak on defense," which invites terrorists to attack.

Well, apparently the Republican commission members didn't even give Clarke's book a cursory glance. In the book's preface, we find these stark facts.

-- "Ronald Reagan, who did not retaliate for the murder of 278 United States Marines in Beirut and who violated his own terrorism policy by trading arms for hostages in what came to be called the Iran-Contra scandal. (Hey Ollie, why isn't that considered "appeasement?").

-- "George H.W. Bush, who did not retaliate for the Libyan murder of 259 passengers on Pan Am 103, who did not have an official counterterrorism policy; and who left Saddam Hussein in place, requiring the United States to leave a large military presence in Saudi Arabia."

-- "Bill Clinton, who identified terrorism as the major post-Cold War threat and acted to improve our counterterrorism capabilities; who (little known to the public) quelled anti-American terrorism in Iraq and Iran and defeated an al Qaeda attempt to dominate Bosnia; but who, weakened by continued political attack, could not get the CIA, the Pentagon, and FBI to act sufficiently to deal with the threat."

-- "George W. Bush, who failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks, and who launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist move-ment worldwide."

An old inside joke on black America is that if you want to keep something secret from black folks, hide it in a book. Apparently, it's also the way to keep a secret from those who still think the Bush administration has brought honor and integrity back to the White House.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columnist. E-mail him at


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