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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- The Bush administration has an enormous arsenal of weapons to prevent the truths of our times from being dealt with as they should be -- straight on. The cast of characters wielding power in Washington bellow their mission to bring "freedom" around the world, but in practice show contempt for democracy and democratic institutions, especially in their systematic denial of the free flow of information.

This administration's aversion to the truth and their fear that the American people can't handle the facts and make intelligent choices have created a civic disease that sickens our republic.

The axis of arrogance -- the president, his big business sponsors and the corporate, co-opted media -- like it this way and it will only get worse.

There are flat-out lies of commission, glaring, deliberate omissions of relevant facts, elaborate distortions, exaggerations that contort the truth beyond recognition, and a Nixonian obsession with secrecy that covers up, not only the lies as they are committed, but is aimed at preventing future historians from seeking the truth.

The latest Bush weapon of deception is old-fashioned censorship. If people don't know what's going on, how can they be upset? It's that simple. The White House has decided global warming is not really a threat to human health and an environmental problem worthy of mention.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency, due out this week, examines a wide range of problems and the gaps in knowledge and understanding needed to address them.

The draft of the report was forthright: "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." The science for that statement is solid. There are reasonable questions about what factors influence global warming and what its consequences are, but its existence is a reality.

Evidence mounts that the 1990s provided the warmest decade in 1,000 years. Chunks of Antarctic ice the size of Niagara County routinely fall off the continent, as scientists wonder and worry about the impact on all life.

The Bush administration already bailed out of any global approach to the problem, rejecting the Kyoto protocols, saying essentially that the richest nation on earth will not join in an international approach to dealing with an issue that clearly transcends national borders.

That arrogance permeates everything the Bush administration does on issues of the environment. When in doubt, the public policy of our nation is to side with those who defile the earth.

When he was governor of Texas, the president allowed the state's major industrial polluters to decide for themselves how much pollution they could spew into the air.

Houston has some of the filthiest air anywhere, and asthma and other respiratory illnesses are at alarming rates there and around the nation. Children are especially vulnerable but, sadly for them, the Bushies are far more interested in keeping the petroleum, chemical, auto, energy, mining and agriculture industries happy than in protecting the health of the young.

I guess it makes sense in a strange kind of way. Since teen-agers today can look forward to coughing up an inordinate portion of their future incomes to pay for Bush's record deficits used to finance tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, they might as well cough more with their lungs as well.

The spin doctors in the White House decided the words "global warming" couldn't even be used in the EPA's final report.

I can hear them now. Karl Rove, the president's political guru, with his army of Christian crusaders in a cramped office in the West Wing: "We can't say global warming. That might cause public alarm and upset our corporate sponsors. Can't have that. Not prudent. Those industry executives aren't filling our coffers for nothing. We know who our friends are."

This denial of scientific truth is not business as usual. It's not the politics every administration plays with the EPA. The agency -- created by Richard Nixon, by the way -- has a charter to bring some independence to the evaluation of issues relating to the air we breathe, water we drink and land we use.

The Bush crowd's decision to reject science for political purposes is disgraceful, and even Republican veterans of the EPA know how it stinks.

In a letter to The New York Times, Russell E. Train, the former administrator of the agency, warns of the danger of burying the truth.

"Having served as EPA administrator under both presidents Nixon and Ford, I can state categorically that there never was such White House intrusion into the business of the EPA during my tenure. The EPA was established as an independent agency in the executive branch, and so it should remain. There appears today to be a steady erosion in its independent status."

Train trusts people to have complete unfettered access to the scientific information so vital to their lives and future. "The interests of the American people lie in having full disclosure of the facts, particularly when the issue is one with such potentially enormous damage to the long-term health and economic well-being of all of us." What a radical notion.

The suppression of the truth is so pervasive and commonplace in this administration that it's fair to assume they are lying unless proven otherwise.

The Pentagon-created myth of the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch supports that caution. The young lady was doing her duty. She was courageous. She suffers from her injuries and will for a long time. Those are truths. Her survival is admirable.

So why then did the military mind-manipulators have to make up a pack of lies? Lynch did not fire back when Iraqi forces attacked her lost convoy. She was knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed and she suffered multiple fractures.

She was not shot, stabbed or tortured by her captors as the Pentagon spin-masters lead us to believe. Iraqi doctors treated her humanely and they even tried to return her to an American checkpoint. They were shot at when they approached.

The daring nighttime raid was a sham. There was no resistance. Iraqi soldiers were long gone. It was done for Hollywood, and thus a deliberately deceptive "feel good" story was created to feed the folks back home. And now the corporate media empires are fighting to see who will pay the most for Lynch's "story."

Attorney General John "The Puritan" Ashcroft's stories rival those of his pals in the Pentagon. He labels people as "international terrorists" with reckless impunity. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports 60 of the 62 Middle Eastern students whom a New Jersey U.S. attorney's office branded as terrorists were in fact guilty of paying other students to take English proficiency exams required for college and graduate students.

Ashcroft exaggerates and overstates in nearly everything he utters. He's so consumed with righteousness he can't help himself. His minions around the country, aiming to please the boss, inflate their own terrorism numbers all the time, and then Ashcroft uses those statistics to support his arguments for more unbridled powers. The lies service more lies, and numb the true assessment of the reach of terrorism.

The Republican Congress is now going to allow a "review" -- they refuse to use the word -- to investigate the intelligence information the president used to sell the war with Iraq.

Some biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction may still be found, but what has emerged shows an attempt to twist the truth to support an already determined political position.

George W. Bush greatly exaggerated Iraq's nuclear program and capabilities. The links to al-Qaeda were never there. Those were the primary stated reasons we went to war, and the president of the United States was willing to distort the truth and mislead the American people to get what he wanted.

That deception erodes our democracy. If Bush gets away with it, the damage will be irreparable.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 24 2003