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By Bill Gallagher

"Put all your eggs in one basket -- and watch that basket." -- Mark Twain.

DETROIT -- President George W. Bush is spending his depleting "political capital" trying to salvage whatever he can from the unending mess in Iraq his madness created. But the career buck-passer says when U.S. troops will be withdrawn "will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

If nothing else, though, Bush is politically savvy and he is focusing on the upcoming mid-term congressional elections. That's all he really cares about -- maintaining his unchallenged power.

Losing one or both houses to the Democrats would derail his grip on everything that comes out of Washington. Bush and his "brain," Karl Rove, fear Democrats in Congress controlling committees with subpoena powers would pounce on the serial deceptions, corruption and incompetence of six years of Bushevik rule.

For them, a government working as the framers of our Constitution intended with congressional checks and balances is unthinkable and would disrupt their criminal enterprises. Scrutiny and public revelations threaten the family business and the driving force behind all they do: accumulating and protecting their wealth.

That, of course, is why Bush marched into Iraq. However, several factors -- lies, hubris and stupidity, for starters -- exposed the naked aggression and imperialism for what it is. We are now stuck as an unwelcome and vulnerable army of occupation.

Initially sold as vital for our national security and the forefront in the war on terrorism, the assault on Iraq is now cynically disguised as everything from liberation to humanitarianism to sowing the seeds of democratic reform in the broader Middle East.

Bush's invaluable accomplice in selling his shifting lies for the war was the complicit corporate media. Now Bush is turning on his great ally. "Sorry, pals. I sure appreciated your help in getting this war thing going, but now I've got another election to win."

The Busheviks are peddling fear -- their essential product -- and they are sure to pull off some big scare tactic around Oct. 25 to remind Americans how much we need them to keep us safe.

Meanwhile, the strategy is to urge happy-face reports about the war and, as Bush beseeched us in a speech in Cleveland last week, to seek out those stories that buttress his being "so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq."

We must consider all those dramatic images that people see on the TV screens and understand that the daily dose of tragic carnage may be impeding Bush's "plan for victory in Iraq." Hell, it's the media's fault that "some Americans have had their confidence shaken," Bush lamented. He fretted, "There is a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad."

You knew right away this was a Rove operation when the Fox News Channel, right-wing shout radio and every loyal Bushevik pundit on earth echoed the same lines. Great progress is being made in Iraq, but Bush "haters" and the "liberal media" are out to get him and only seek out the "negative" stories about Iraq to deliberately scuttle the "successes" being made there.

Some media outlets may be piling on Bush and his war to assuage their guilt for helping hustle the propaganda and deceptions that made the disaster possible. The failures in Iraq today are bloody obvious, but so were the lies that Bush used and most in the media repeated that got us there in the first place.

Bush is right. It is the media's fault. But he's three or four years off in his time frame. Where was the mainstream American media in the period when the Busheviks' lie-laced case for war with Iraq was manufactured? Most -- especially influential outlets like The New York Times, the Washington Post, the major TV networks and their local affiliates, cable news and leading news magazines -- joined in Bush's march to war with gushing enthusiasm.

The conflation of Saddam Hussein and Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and al-Qaeda was essential in the grand deception. The corporate media, in large measure, propagated the myths, to the delight of Bush and the other warmongers.

Last week, when Bush tried to carefully parse his words and denied he intended to make that link, most media outlets just let the lie slide. To their credit, Media Matters, an online watchdog magazine, and MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" showed how Bush repeatedly made the Saddam-Sept. 11 links and how he still fosters the rhetorical deception.

Even after the non-stop lying from the administration, why are so many in the media so reluctant to call it just that? I never noticed such trepidation when Bill Clinton was in office, and his sins and lies were venial compared to Bush's.

My guess is that we will now see more "good news" stories out of Iraq as the wimps running major news organizations scurry to show just how fair they are. They don't want to be accused of being unpatriotic or, as Bush suggested, contributing to "the enemy's capability to affect the debate" over the war and make Americans "worried about whether or not we can win."

Instead of reports about sectarian assassins going on murderous rampages, street explosions, jail breakouts, soldiers killing unarmed civilians, kidnappings and civil chaos -- everyday life in Iraq -- we will see stories about building a new road.

This president, more than any in recent memory, makes the media cower and fear retribution from his notoriously vindictive administration. The New York Times still has not fully explained why, for more than a year, it sat on the blockbuster story that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to wiretap American citizens without warrant in direct violation of federal law. The paper went with the story when James Risen, the reporter who had the explosive scoop, was about to reveal his findings in a book.

Nor has the Times ever come to grips with how the bogus stories of former star reporter Judith Miller about Iraq's weapons programs ever made it into print. The reports from dubious administration sources were as vital to Bush's phony case for war as they were dead wrong.

Getting it right on Iraq required some basic elements: dealing with facts straight on, a decent memory and sense of history, a willingness to question authority, and most of all, the freedom to purse the truth.

Sadly, Bush, with great help from the media, was able to exploit Americans' fear and anxiety after Sept. 11 and most people were convinced our president deserved our blind support.

The sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker and only person to be charged in the attacks, is a reminder of the unthinkable negligence FBI administrators committed in failing to search his computer and pursue why he was training to fly airliners.

At the trial to determine whether Moussaoui will face the death penalty, Harry Samit, an FBI agent from Minnesota, provided chilling testimony about how hard he tried to get a simple search warrant to further investigate Moussaoui and his possible links to terrorism.

One supervisor told Samit pressing too hard for the warrant would hurt his career. The FBI agent wrote that his superiors were guilty of "criminal negligence" and on Aug. 18, 2001, composed an urgent memo underscoring his fears that Moussaoui was involved in a planned terrorist attack.

That was 12 days after Bush received a CIA report entitled "Osama bin Laden Determined to Attack US." Bush ignored the report and the FBI ignored Samit's warnings.

The very notion that bin Laden was in cahoots with Saddam is laughable. Both are murderers and both are Arab, but that's about as far as they can be connected. Saddam ruled one of the most secular nations in the Middle East and bin Laden is a fanatical religious zealot.

The British experiences in Iraq from 1920 to 1932 provide a valuable historical lesson. The insurgents never let up and the British ended up bombing the hell out of Iraqi villages, finally withdrawing their troops after getting assurances their oil interests would be protected. Sound familiar? Few reports on Iraq note that sordid history.

The media provided slavish regurgitation of the Busheviks' unsupported claims of the Iraqi "threat" and the need to go to war to prevent doom. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," Condoleezza Rice infamously warned us. Few in the media dared challenge her wretched hyperbole.

Vice President Dick Cheney promised we would be "greeted as liberators" in Iraq and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assured us he knew "exactly" where the weapons of mass destruction would be found. The Busheviks in the Pentagon lied about Jessica Lynch's rescue and Pat Tillman's death.

In spite of all this, we are now supposed to believe Bush's claims of "progress in Iraq." Not for a minute. The corporate media will spout that lie to curry favor with the administration and try to position themselves as patriotic for their audiences.

The management and editors of our fine journal didn't care about pleasing people. The truth seemed more important. A few days ago, I went to the archives of the Niagara Falls Reporter to retrieve a quote. I came across the headline for a column I had written. The editors, by the way, write the headlines. It read, "War with Iraq will only inflame hatred, create more terrorists."

The date of the edition is March 18, 2003. We got it right.

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@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 28 2006