History Podcasts

Robert Parry

Robert Parry

During the Cold War, Shackley had run many of the CIA's most controversial paramilitary operations, from Vietnam and Laos to the JMWAVE operations against Fidel Castro's Cuba. When Bush was CIA director in 1976, he appointed Shackley to a top clandestine job, associate deputy director for operations.

But Shackley's CIA career ended in 1979, after three years of battling Carter's CIA director, Stansfield Turner. Shackley believed that Turner, by cleaning out hundreds of covert "old boys," was destroying the agency -- as well as Shackley's career.

After retiring, Shackley went into business with another ex-CIA man, Thomas Clines, a partner with Edwin Wilson, the rogue spy who later would go to prison over shipments of terrorist materials to Libya. Clines himself would be convicted of tax fraud in the Iran-contra scandal, another controversy in which Shackley's pale specter would hover in the background.

But in 1980, Shackley was set on putting his former boss, George ush, in the White House and possibly securing the CIA directorship for himself. Shackley volunteered his prodigious skills to Bush in early 1980. Though that fact has come out before, Shackley's involvement in the Iran hostage issue, the so-called October Surprise controversy, has been a closely held secret, until now.

In 1992, the House investigators should have jumped when they saw the Shackley tie-in. The task force, which was examining charges that Republicans sabotaged Carter's hostage talks, already knew that other ex-CIA men were managing a 24-hour-a-day "Operations Center" at Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters to monitor Iran developments. Richard Allen had called the ex-spies a "plane load of disgruntled CIA" officers "playing cops and robbers."

Some House investigators wanted the behind-the-scenes CIA role mentioned. A "secret" draft chapter of the House task force report, which I also found in the storage room, stated that: "Many of the [Operations Center's] staff members were former CIA employees who had previously worked on the Bush campaign or were otherwise loyal to George Bush." But that section was deleted from the publicly released version.

Another task force discovery -- also dropped from the final report -- was that conservative "journalist" Michael Ledeen, another Shackley associate, was privately collaborating with the Reagan-Bush campaign on the Iran hostage issue. The draft chapter said Ledeen was an unofficial member of the campaign's "October Surprise" group. A separate page of Allen's notes revealed Ledeen joining campaign director, William J. Casey, in a Sept. 16 meeting for what was called the "Persian Gulf Project."

In 1980, Shackley had teamed up with Ledeen as paid consultants to a "war game" for SISMI, the Italian intelligence service with close ties to the secret international right-wing Masonic lodge, P-2. As the 1980 campaign neared its end, Italian intelligence leaked a damaging -- and questionable -- story to Ledeen about President Carter's brother Billy and his business ties to Libya. Ledeen wrote the story for The New Republic without mentioning that he was working for SISMI or assisting the Reagan-Bush campaign.

Shackley had strong bonds to many CIA officers still in the government, too. Donald Gregg, who also has been linked to the October Surprise allegations, served under Shackley's command in Vietnam. In 1980, Gregg was the CIA liaison inside Carter's National Security Council, making him privy to secrets about the hostage talks. Gregg would later become national security adviser to Vice President Bush and a secondary figure in the Iran-contra scandal.

Investigative reporting is to journalism what theoretical research is to science, having the potential to present new realities and shatter old paradigms – how people see and understand the world around them – which, in turn, can transform politics.

That is why investigative journalism is so important to the health of a democracy. A dramatic set of new facts – as in Watergate or Iran-Contra – can overcome long-maintained lies and shake a corrupt government to its foundation.

Investigative reporting also can strip away the pleasing façade of a deceptive leader or it can expose flaws in a “conventional wisdom” that is taking the nation in a dangerous direction. Done right, investigative journalism is a huge threat to powerful elites trying to manipulate a population.

These are some of the reasons we have worked so hard over the past decade to keep Consortiumnews.com going. It is also why a greater capacity for producing independent investigative journalism is crucial for changing today’s U.S. political dynamic.

We can think back on how the journalistic process worked in the 1970s: the Watergate scandal exposing Richard Nixon’s scheme for rigging the political process, or the Pentagon Papers exposure of the lies that led the nation to war in Vietnam, or the revelation of CIA abuses that showed how the country was drifting toward a secret national security state.

Indeed, the disclosures of government wrongdoing in the 1970s represented a real and present danger to those leaders who favored the transition of the United States from a democratic republic into a world empire where the people’s consent is managed through the skillful use of images, fear and myths.

The work of investigative journalists in the mid-1970s represented such a threat to those who pulled the strings from the shadows that a sustained counterattack was organized to punish independent-minded journalists while also building a huge right-wing media echo chamber to drown out dissenting information.

Over the next decade, the Right’s media strategy advanced smartly, aided unintentionally by an inverse judgment by many influential figures on the Left to downplay media in favor of more “grassroots organizing.”

While conservative funders poured hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars into media outlets and think tanks, progressive funders largely favored community organizing or direct action, such as feeding the homeless and buying up endangered wetlands.

By the mid-1980s, the result of the conservative strategy was being felt. The Right’s defensive mechanisms put journalists and other investigators on the defensive when they examined issues, such as “death squads” in Central America, that put Ronald Reagan's policies in a negative light.

Career-minded reporters recognized how easy it was to get marginalized as a “liberal” or – in the case of the Nicaragua conflict – as a “Sandinista sympathizer.” Many journalists backed away from the career danger and even joined the sniping at fellow reporters who insisted on pursuing wrongdoing by the Reagan administration.

This dynamic was a major reason why the Iran-Contra abuses festered for so long with only scattered reporting at outlets, such as the Associated Press (where I worked) and the Miami Herald. Many of our colleagues at prestige outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, took a walk on the scandal rather than tangle with Reagan’s aggressive neoconservative operatives who were already on the rise.

Still, at AP, Brian Barger and I were able to uncover many of the secrets about the White House support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels waging war against the leftist Sandinista government. We also discovered that some of the contra units were augmenting their war chests through drug trafficking.

By 1986, this investigative reporting was threatening to expose a web of criminality that implicated high-ranking officials of the Reagan administration. But denials and intimidation – backed by the growing conservative media apparatus – prevented anything like full disclosure. Oliver North and other officials simply lied to official inquiries.

The dikes only burst when one of North’s supply planes was shot down over Nicaragua on Oct. 5, 1986, and a Lebanese newspaper reported in November 1986 that the White House was secretly selling weapons to Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist government. When North was found to have diverted some Iran profits to pay for contra supplies, the Iran-Contra scandal was born.

But the strength of the Right’s media infrastructure and an aggressive containment strategy by the White House limited the exposures and spared Reagan administration officials from going to jail. Several of Iran-Contra’s darkest corners – the contra-drug trafficking and secret Republican contacts with Iran dating back to the 1980 presidential campaign – never were seriously explored.

We founded the Consortiumnews.com website in 1995, back in the "early days" of the modern Internet. The site was meant to be a home for important, well-reported stories that weren't welcome in the O.J. Simpson-obsessed, conventional-wisdom-driven national news media of that time.

As one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press in the mid-1980s, I was distressed by the silliness and downright creepiness that had pervaded American journalism by the mid-1990s. I feared, too, that the decline of the U.S. press corps foreshadowed disasters that would come when journalists failed to alert the public about impending dangers.Also by 1995, documents were emerging that put the history of the 1980s in a new – and more troubling – light. Yet, there were fewer and fewer media outlets interested in that history. The memories of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were enveloped in warm-and-fuzzy myths that represented another kind of danger: false history that could lead to mistaken political judgments in the future.So, with my eldest son Sam serving as technical adviser (he was in his early 20s so the Internet didn't seem that strange to him), we started what we called "the Internet's first investigative 'Zine" in November 1995.Some of our articles reexamined important chapters of the 1980s (such as the “October Surprise” controversy from Election 1980 and evidence of Nicaraguan contra-cocaine trafficking). Other stories explored current crises (such as the War in Kosovo and the impeachment assault on President Bill Clinton).

Author Norman Solomon and I produced a groundbreaking series on the real story behind Colin Powell's legend. Another series examined how Rev. Sun Myung Moon became an influential player in Washington. Working with talented freelance reporters around the world, we also undertook important historical investigations (such as how the Nazis after World War II - crossing "rat lines" to South America - contributed to the region’s bloody repression).

In 1976, when George H.W. Bush was CIA director, the U.S. government tolerated right-wing terrorist cells inside the United States and mostly looked the other way when these killers topped even Palestinian terrorists in spilling blood, including a lethal car bombing in Washington, D.C., according to newly obtained internal government documents.

That car bombing on Sept. 21, 1976, on Washington’s Embassy Row, killed Chile’s former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, while wounding Moffitt’s husband.

It soon became clear to the FBI and other federal investigators that the attack likely was a joint operation of DINA, the fearsome Chilean intelligence agency of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and U.S.-based right-wing Cuban exiles.

But Bush’s CIA steered attention away from the real assassins toward leftists who supposedly killed Letelier to create a martyr for their cause. Eventually, the CIA’s cover story collapsed and – during the Carter administration – at least some of the lower-level conspirators were prosecuted, though the full story was never told.

Recently obtained internal FBI records and notes of a U.S. prosecutor involved in counter-terrorism cases make clear that the connections among Bush’s CIA, DINA and the Cuban Nationalist Movement (CNM) – which supplied the trigger men for the Letelier bombing – were closer than was understood at the time.

DINA provided intelligence training for CNM terrorists who acted like a “sleeper cell” inside the United States; federal prosecutions of right-wing Cuban terrorists were routinely frustrated; and the CIA did all it could to cover for its anticommunist allies who were part of a broader international terror campaign called Operation Condor.

Beginning in late 1975, Operation Condor -- named after Chile's national bird -- was a joint operation of right-wing South American military dictatorships, working closely with U.S.-based Cuban and other anticommunist extremists on cross-border assassinations of political dissidents as far away as Europe.

This meant that during George H.W. Bush’s year at the CIA’s helm, the United States both harbored domestic terrorist cells and served as a base for international terrorism. Yet no U.S. official was ever held accountable -- and in many cases, just the opposite....

Regarding the DINA-CNM alliance, Chile’s star assassin Michael Townley told FBI interrogators after his arrest in 1978 that Cuban exiles involved in the Letelier murder had received DINA training, including CNM member Virgilio Paz, who “attended a one-month ‘quickie’ intelligence course sponsored by DINA,” the internal FBI report said.

Townley, a fiercely anticommunist American expatriate who had emerged as DINA’s chief overseas assassin, told the FBI that Paz’s training was personally approved by DINA’s director, Col. Manuel Contreras, who – the CIA later acknowledged – was an asset of the U.S. spy agency.

Paz lived at Townley’s residence during his three-month stay in Chile and DINA paid for Paz’s frequent calls back home to the United States, Townley said, recalling that Paz left Chile close to his son Brian’s birthday on June 6, 1976.

About a month later, Colonel Pedro Espinoza, DINA’s director of operations, summoned Townley to a meeting near St. Georges School in suburban Santiago. Townley recalled driving his DINA-supplied Fiat 125 sedan to the early-morning meeting and taking a thermos of coffee.

Espinoza asked Townley if he’d be available for a special operation outside Chile. Townley complained “that he had spent a majority of 1975 in Europe on DINA missions and that he felt he was neglecting his family with constant travel on behalf of DINA,” according to the FBI report...

When I tracked down former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Sanford, who was assigned to the Cuban terrorism cases in the mid-1970s, he still sounded frustrated at the lack of support he got from Washington to pursue these killers who inflicted death both inside and outside the United States.

“My blood starts to boil when I think of how much we could have done but how badly we were kept in the dark,” said Sanford, now 66, living in northern Florida. “I asked for stuff and never got it.”

Sanford recalled that when CIA Director Bush visited Miami at the end of the bloody year 1976, FBI agents “asked him for information from the CIA on where explosives [for the Cuban exiles] were stashed.” The response from Bush, according to Sanford, was “forget about it.”

Referring to the umbrella organization CORU, Sanford said, “it was the only terrorist group that ever exported terrorism from the United States.”

Ironically, the CIA’s analytical division reached a similar, troubling conclusion in an annual report entitled “International Terrorism in 1976” that was published in July 1977, after CIA Director Bush had left office.

“Cuban exile groups operating under the aegis of a new alliance called the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations [CORU] were particularly active during the second half of the year,” the CIA reported. “They were responsible for no less than 17 acts of international terrorism (at least three of which took place in the US).

“Statistically, this matches the record compiled by the various Palestinian terrorist groups during the same period. But largely because the Cuban exile operations included the October bombing of a Cubana Airlines passenger aircraft, their consequences were far more bloody.”

In other words, Cuban exiles based in the United States – during George H.W. Bush’s year in charge of the CIA – outpaced Palestinian terrorists in terms of a total body count.


Robert Parry: Neocon Judge's History of Cover-ups

Laurence Silberman, a U.S. Courts Appeals Court judge and a longtime neoconservative operative – part of what the Iran-Contra special prosecutor called “the strategic reserves” for convicted Reagan administration operatives in the 1980s – is back playing a similar role for the Bush-43 administration.

On Sept. 11, the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Silberman issued a 2-to-1 opinion dismissing a lawsuit against the private security firm, CACI International, brought by Iraqi victims of torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

Silberman declared that CACI was immune from prosecution because its employees were responding to U.S. military commands. The immunity ruling blocked legal efforts by 212 Iraqis, who suffered directly at Abu Ghraib or were the widows of men who died, to exact some accountability from CACI employees who allegedly assisted in the torture of prisoners.

"During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be preempted," Silberman wrote.

But Silberman is not a dispassionate judge when it comes to the crimes of Republicans committed in the cause of advancing the neocon cause.

In the 1980s, Silberman played behind-the-scenes roles in helping Ronald Reagan gain the White House he helped formulate hard-line intelligence policies he encouraged right-wing media attacks on liberals and he protected the flanks of Reagan's operatives who were caught breaking the law.

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a Republican himself, counted Silberman as one of"a powerful band of Republican [judicial] appointees [who] waited like the strategic reserves of an embattled army," determined to prevent any judgments against Reagan's operatives who broke the law in the arms-for-hostage scandal.

In his 1997 memoir, Firewall, Walsh depicted Silberman as a leader of that partisan band, even recalling how Silberman had berated Judge George MacKinnon, also a Republican, who led the panel which had picked Walsh to be the special prosecutor.

"At a D.C. circuit conference, he [Silberman] had gotten into a shouting match about independent counsel with Judge George MacKinnon," Walsh wrote."Silberman not only had hostile views but seemed to hold them in anger."

In 1990, after Walsh had secured a difficult conviction of former White House aide Oliver North for offenses stemming from the Iran-Contra scandal, Silberman teamed up with another right-wing judge, David Sentelle, to overturn North's conviction in a sudden outburst of sympathy for defendant rights.

Less publicly, in 1991, Silberman also went to bat for the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, working with right-wing operatives to destroy the reputation of Anita Hill, a former Thomas employee who testified about his crude sexual harassment.

Author David Brock, then a well-paid right-wing hatchet man who published what he later admitted were scurrilous attacks on Hill, described the support and encouragement he received from Silberman and Silberman's wife, Ricky. Even after Thomas had won Senate confirmation, Silberman still was pushing attack lines against Hill, Brock wrote in his book, Blinded by the Right.


Lost History : Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'

Robert Earle Parry was born in Hartford, Connecticut on June 24, 1949. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Colby College in 1971. He worked briefly for his father's newspaper before joining The Associated Press in 1974. He won the George Polk Award for national reporting in 1984 for his article concerning the Central Intelligence Agency providing an assassination manual to the right-wing insurgents who were seeking to overthrow the socialist government in Nicaragua. He worked at Newsweek from 1987 to 1990 and later worked on documentaries for the PBS series Frontline. In 1995, he established the Consortium for Independent Journalism. He received the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence in 2015 and the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2017. He wrote several books including Trick or Treason and Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. He died from pancreatic cancer on January 27, 2018 at the age of 68.


Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews

It is with a heavy heart that we inform Consortiumnews readers that Editor Robert Parry has passed away. As regular readers know, Robert (or Bob, as he was known to friends and family) suffered a stroke in December, which – despite his own speculation that it may have been brought on by the stress of covering Washington politics – was the result of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that he had been unknowingly living with for the past 4-5 years.

He unfortunately suffered two more debilitating strokes in recent weeks and after the last one, was moved to hospice care on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully Saturday evening. He was 68.

Those of us close to him wish to sincerely thank readers for the kind comments and words of support posted on recent articles regarding Bob’s health issues. We read aloud many of these comments to him during his final days to let him know how much his work has meant to so many people and how much concern there was for his well-being.

I am sure that these kindnesses meant a lot to him. They also mean a lot to us as family members, as we all know how devoted he was to the mission of independent journalism and this website which has been publishing articles since the earliest days of the internet, launching all the way back in 1995.

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the U.S.-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that – no matter how well-documented – cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, “Kids like me?” He replied, “Yes, kids just like you.”

Bob was deeply impacted by the dirty wars of Central America in the 1980s and in many ways these conflicts – and the U.S. involvement in them – came to define the rest of his life and career. With grisly stories emerging from Nicaragua (thanks partly to journalists like him), Congress passed the Boland Amendments from 1982 to 1984, which placed limits on U.S. military assistance to the contras who were attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government through a variety of terrorist tactics.

The Reagan administration immediately began exploring ways to circumvent those legal restrictions, which led to a scheme to send secret arms shipments to the revolutionary and vehemently anti-American government of Iran and divert the profits to the contras. In 1985, Bob wrote the first stories describing this operation, which later became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Contra-Cocaine and October Surprise

Parallel to the illegal arms shipments to Iran during those days was a cocaine trafficking operation by the Nicaraguan contras and a willingness by the Reagan administration and the CIA to turn a blind eye to these activities. This, despite the fact that cocaine was flooding into the United States while Ronald Reagan was proclaiming a “war on drugs,” and a crack cocaine epidemic was devastating communities across the country.

Bob and his colleague Brian Barger were the first journalists to report on this story in late 1985, which became known as the contra-cocaine scandal and became the subject of a congressional investigation led by then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 1986.

Continuing to pursue leads relating to Iran-Contra during a period in the late 80s when most of Washington was moving on from the scandal, Bob discovered that there was more to the story than commonly understood. He learned that the roots of the illegal arm shipments to Iran stretched back further than previously known – all the way back to the 1980 presidential campaign.

That electoral contest between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan had come to be largely dominated by the hostage crisis in Iran, with 52 Americans being held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian hostage crisis, along with the ailing economy, came to define a perception of an America in decline, with former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan promising a new start for the country, a restoration of its status as a “shining city on a hill.”

The hostages were released in Tehran moments after Reagan was sworn in as president in Washington on January 20, 1981. Despite suspicions for years that there had been some sort of quid pro quo between the Reagan campaign and the Iranians, it wasn’t until Bob uncovered a trove of documents in a House office building basement in 1994 that the evidence became overwhelming that the Reagan campaign had interfered with the Carter administration’s efforts to free the hostages prior to the 1980 election. Their release sooner – what Carter hoped would be his “October Surprise” – could have given him the boost needed to win.

Examining these documents and being already well-versed on this story – having previously travelled three continents pursuing the investigation for a PBS Frontline documentary – Bob became increasingly convinced that the Reagan campaign had in fact sabotaged Carter’s hostage negotiations, possibly committing an act of treason in an effort to make sure that 52 American citizens continued to be held in a harrowing hostage situation until after Reagan secured the election.

Needless to say, this was an inconvenient story at a time – in the mid-1990s – when the national media had long since moved on from the Reagan scandals and were obsessing over new scandals, mostly related to President Bill Clinton’s sex life and failed real estate deals. Washington also wasn’t particularly interested in challenging the Reagan legacy, which at that time was beginning to solidify into a kind of mythology, with campaigns underway to name buildings and airports after the former president.

At times, Bob had doubts about his career decisions and the stories he was pursuing. As he wrote in Trick or Treason, a book outlining his investigation into the October Surprise Mystery, this search for historical truth can be painful and seemingly thankless.

“Many times,” he wrote, “I had regretted accepting Frontline’s assignment in 1990. I faulted myself for risking my future in mainstream journalism. After all, that is where the decent-paying jobs are. I had jeopardized my ability to support my four children out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, a regard for an unwritten code that expects reporters to take almost any assignment.”

Nevertheless, Bob continued his efforts to tell the full story behind both the Iran-Contra scandal and the origins of the Reagan-Bush era, ultimately leading to two things: him being pushed out of the mainstream media, and the launching of Consortiumnews.com.

I remember when he started the website, together with my older brother Sam, back in 1995. At the time, in spite of talk we were all hearing about something called “the information superhighway” and “electronic mail,” I had never visited a website and didn’t even know how to get “on line.” My dad called me in Richmond, where I was a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, and told me I should check out this new “Internet site” he and Sam had just launched.

He explained over the phone how to open a browser and instructed me how to type in the URL, starting, he said, with “http,” then a colon and two forward slashes, then “www,” then “dot,” then this long address with one or two more forward slashes if I recall. (It wasn’t until years later that the website got its own domain and a simpler address.)

I went to the computer lab at the university and asked for some assistance on how to get online, dutifully typed in the URL, and opened this website – the first one I had ever visited. It was interesting, but a bit hard to read on the computer screen, so I printed out some articles to read back in my dorm room.

I quickly became a fan of “The Consortium,” as it was called back then, and continued reading articles on the October Surprise Mystery as Bob and Sam posted them on this new and exciting tool called “the Internet.” Sam had to learn HTML coding from scratch to launch this online news service, billed as “the Internet’s First Investigative ‘Zine.” For his efforts, Sam was honored with the Consortium for Independent Journalism’s first Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

X-Files and Contra-Crack

At some point along the way, Bob decided that in addition to the website, where he was not only posting original articles but also providing the source documents that he had uncovered in the House office building basement, he would also take a stab at traditional publishing. He compiled the “October Surprise X-Files” into a booklet and self-published it in January 1996.

He was also publishing a newsletter to complement the website, knowing that at that time, there were still plenty of people who didn’t know how to turn a computer on, much less navigate the World Wide Web. I transferred from Virginia Commonwealth University to George Mason University in the DC suburbs and started working part-time with my dad and Sam on the newsletter and website.

We worked together on the content, editing and laying it out with graphics often culled from books at our local library. We built a subscriber base through networking and purchasing mailing lists from progressive magazines. Every two weeks we would get a thousand copies printed from Sir Speedy and would spend Friday evening collating these newsletters and sending them out to our subscribers.

The launching of the website and newsletter, and later an even-more ambitious project called I.F. Magazine, happened to coincide with the publication in 1996 of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series at the San Jose Mercury-News. Webb’s series reopened the contra-cocaine controversy with a detailed examination of the drug trafficking networks in Nicaragua and Los Angeles that had helped to spread highly addictive crack cocaine across the United States.

The African-American community, in particular, was rightly outraged over this story, which offered confirmation of many long-standing suspicions that the government was complicit in the drug trade devastating their communities. African Americans had been deeply and disproportionately affected by the crack epidemic, both in terms of the direct impact of the drug and the draconian drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences that came to define the government’s approach to “the war on drugs.”

For a moment in the summer of 1996, it appeared that the renewed interest in the contra-cocaine story might offer an opportunity to revisit the crimes and misdeeds of the Reagan-Bush era, but those hopes were dashed when the “the Big Media” decided to double down on its earlier failures to cover this story properly.

The Los Angeles Times launched the attack on Gary Webb and his reporting at the San Jose Mercury-News, followed by equally dismissive stories at the Washington Post and New York Times. The piling on from these newspapers eventually led Mercury-News editor Jerry Ceppos to denounce Webb’s reporting and offer a mea culpa for publishing the articles.

The onslaught of hostile reporting from the big papers failed to address the basic premises of Webb’s series and did not debunk the underlying allegations of contra-cocaine smuggling or the fact that much of this cocaine ended up on American streets in the form of crack. Instead, it raised doubts by poking holes in certain details and casting the story as a “conspiracy theory.” Some of the reporting attempted to debunk claims that Webb never actually made – such as the idea that the contra-cocaine trafficking was part of a government plot to intentionally decimate the African-American community.

Gary Webb and Bob were in close contact during those days. Bob offered him professional and personal support, having spent his time also on the receiving end of attacks by journalistic colleagues and editors who rejected certain stories – no matter how factual – as fanciful conspiracy theories. Articles at The Consortium website and newsletter, as well as I.F. Magazine, offered details on the historical context for the “Dark Alliance” series and pushed back against the mainstream media’s onslaught of hostile and disingenuous reporting.

Bob also published the book Lost History which provided extensive details on the background for the “Dark Alliance” series, explaining that far from a baseless “conspiracy theory,” the facts and evidence strongly supported the conclusion that the Reagan-Bush administrations had colluded with drug traffickers to fund their illegal war against Nicaragua.

But sadly, the damage to Gary Webb was done. With his professional and personal life in tatters because of his courageous reporting on the contra-cocaine story, he committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 49. Speaking about this suicide later on Democracy Now, Bob noted how painful it is to be ridiculed and unfairly criticized by colleagues, as his friend had experienced.

“There’s a special pain when your colleagues in your profession turn on you, especially when you’ve done something that they should admire and should understand,” he said. “To do all that work and then have the New York Times and the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times attack you and try to destroy your life, there’s a special pain in that.”

In consultation with his family, Bob and the Board of Directors for the Consortium for Independent Journalism launched the Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award in 2015.

The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush

The presidency of George W. Bush was surreal for many of us, and no one more so than my dad.

In covering Washington politics for decades, Bob had traced many stories to “Dubya’s” father, George H.W. Bush, who had been implicated in a variety of questionable activities, including the October Surprise Mystery and Iran-Contra. He had also launched a war against Iraq in 1991 that seemed to be motivated, at least in part, to help kick “the Vietnam Syndrome,” i.e. the reluctance that the American people had felt since the Vietnam War to support military action abroad.

As Bob noted in his 1992 book Fooling America, after U.S. forces routed the Iraqi military in 1991, President Bush’s first public comment about the victory expressed his delight that it would finally put to rest the American reflex against committing troops to far-off conflicts. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” he exulted.

The fact that Bush-41’s son could run for president largely on name recognition confirmed to Bob the failure of the mainstream media to cover important stories properly and the need to continue building an independent media infrastructure. This conviction solidified through Campaign 2000 and the election’s ultimate outcome, when Bush assumed the White House as the first popular-vote loser in more than a century.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had halted the counting of votes in Florida, thus preventing an accurate determination of the rightful winner, most of the national media moved on from the story after Bush was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001. Consortiumnews.com continued to examine the documentary record, however, and ultimately concluded that Al Gore would have been declared the winner of that election if all the legally cast ballots were counted.

At Consortiumnews, there was an unwritten editorial policy that the title “President” should never precede George W. Bush’s name, based on our view that he was not legitimately elected. But beyond those editorial decisions, we also understood the gravity of the fact that had Election 2000 been allowed to play out with all votes counted, many of the disasters of the Bush years – notably the 9/11 tragedy and the Iraq War, as well as decisions to withdraw from international agreements on arms control and climate change – might have been averted.

As all of us who lived through the post-9/11 era will recall, it was a challenging time all around, especially if you were someone critical of George W. Bush. The atmosphere in that period did not allow for much dissent. Those who stood up against the juggernaut for war – such as Phil Donahue at MSNBC, Chris Hedges at the New York Times, or even the Dixie Chicks – had their careers damaged and found themselves on the receiving end of death threats and hate mail.

While Bob’s magazine and newsletter projects had been discontinued, the website was still publishing articles, providing a home for dissenting voices that questioned the case for invading Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003. Around this time, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and some of his colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a long-running relationship with Consortiumnews was established. Several former intelligence veterans began contributing to the website, motivated by the same independent spirit of truth-telling that compelled Bob to invest so much in this project.

At a time when almost the entire mainstream media was going along with the Bush administration’s dubious case for war, this and a few other like-minded websites pushed back with well-researched articles calling into question the rationale. Although at times it might have felt as though we were just voices in the wilderness, a major groundswell of opposition to war emerged in the country, with historic marches of hundreds of thousands taking place to reject Bush’s push for war.

Of course, these antiwar voices were ultimately vindicated by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the fact that the war and occupation proved to be a far costlier and deadlier enterprise than we had been told that it would be. Earlier assurances that it would be a “cakewalk” proved as false as the WMD claims, but as had been so often the case in Washington, there was little to no accountability from the mainstream media, the think tanks or government officials for being so spectacularly wrong.

In an effort to document the true history of that era, Bob, Sam and I co-wrote the book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, which was published in late 2007. The book traced the work of Consortiumnews, juxtaposing it against the backdrop of mainstream media coverage during the Bush era, in an effort to not only correct the record, but also demonstrate that not all of us got things so wrong.

We felt it was important to remind readers – as well as future historians – that some of us knew and reported in real time the mistakes that were being made on everything from withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol to invading Iraq to implementing a policy of torture to bungling the response to Hurricane Katrina.

By the time Barack Obama was elected the 44th president, Consortiumnews.com had become a home to a growing number of writers who brought new perspectives to the website’s content. While for years, the writing staff had been limited primarily to Bob, Sam and me, suddenly, Consortiumnews was receiving contributions from journalists, activists and former intelligence analysts who offered a wide range of expertise – on international law, economics, human rights, foreign policy, national security, and even religion and philosophy.

One recurring theme of articles at the website during the Obama era was the enduring effect of unchallenged narratives, how they shaped national politics and dictated government policy. Bob observed that even a supposedly left-of-center president like Obama seemed beholden to the false narratives and national mythologies dating back to the Reagan era. He pointed out that this could be at least partially attributed to the failure to establish a strong foundation for independent journalism.

In a 2010 piece called “Obama’s Fear of the Reagan Narrative,” Bob noted that Obama had defended his deal with Republicans on tax cuts for the rich because there was such a strong lingering effect of Reagan’s messaging from 30 years earlier. “He felt handcuffed by the Right’s ability to rally Americans on behalf of Reagan’s ‘government-is-the-problem’ message,” Bob wrote.

He traced Obama’s complaints about his powerlessness in the face of this dynamic to the reluctance of American progressives to invest sufficiently in media and think tanks, as conservatives had been doing for decades in waging their “the war of ideas.” As he had been arguing since the early 1990s, Robert insisted that the limits that had been placed on Obama – whether real or perceived – continued to demonstrate the power of propaganda and the need for greater investment in alternative media.

He also observed that much of the nuttiness surrounding the so-called Tea Party movement resulted from fundamental misunderstandings of American history and constitutional principles. “Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to ‘first principles’ and a deep respect for the U.S. Constitution,” Bob warned.

He pointed out that despite the Tea Partiers’ claimed reverence for the Constitution, they actually had very little understanding of the document, as revealed by their ahistorical claims that federal taxes are unconstitutional. In fact, as Bob observed, the Constitution represented “a major power grab by the federal government, when compared to the loosely drawn Articles of Confederation, which lacked federal taxing authority and other national powers.”

Motivated by a desire to correct falsified historical narratives spanning more than two centuries, Bob published his sixth and final book, America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama, in 2012.

Along with revenues from book sales, growing donations from readers enabled Bob to not only pay writers but also to hire an assistant, Chelsea Gilmour, who began working for Consortiumnews in 2014. In addition to providing invaluable administrative support, Chelsea also performed duties including research, writing and fact-checking.

Political Realignment and the New McCarthyism

Although at the beginning of the Obama era – and indeed since the 1980s – the name Robert Parry had been closely associated with exposing wrongdoing by Republicans, and hence had a strong following among Democratic Party loyalists, by the end of Obama’s presidency there seemed to be a realignment taking place among some of Consortiumnews.com’s readership, which reflected more generally the shifting politics of the country.

In particular, the U.S. media’s approach to Russia and related issues, such as the violent ouster in 2014 of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, became “virtually 100 percent propaganda,” Bob said.

He noted that the full story was never told when it came to issues such as the Sergei Magnitsky case, which led to the first round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, nor the inconvenient facts related to the Euromaidan protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster – including the reality of strong neo-Nazi influence in those protests – nor the subsequent conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Bob’s stories on Ukraine were widely cited and disseminated, and he became an important voice in presenting a fuller picture of the conflict than was possible by reading and watching only mainstream news outlets. Bob was featured prominently in Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire,” where he explained how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have worked with the CIA and foreign policy establishment since the 1980s to promote the U.S. geopolitical agenda.

Bob regretted that, increasingly, “the American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the ‘other side of the story.’” Indeed, he said that to even suggest that there might be another side to the story is enough to get someone branded as an apologist for Vladimir Putin or a “Kremlin stooge.”

This culminated in late 2016 in the blacklisting of Consortiumnews.com on a dubious website called “PropOrNot,” which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist, including Consortiumnews and about 200 other websites deemed “Russian propaganda,” was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who published the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity.

“The Post’s article by Craig Timberg,” Bob wrote on Nov. 27, 2016, “described PropOrNot simply as ‘a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds [who] planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.’”

As Bob explained in an article called “Washington Post’s Fake News Guilt,” the paper granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

The Post even provided an unattributed quote from the head of the shadowy website. “The way that this propaganda apparatus supported [Donald] Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” the anonymous smear merchant said. The Post claimed that the PropOrNot “executive director” had spoken on the condition of anonymity “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

To be clear, neither Consortiumnews nor Robert Parry ever “supported Trump,” as the above anonymous quote claims. Something interesting, however, did seem to be happening in terms of Consortiumnews’ readership in the early days of the Trump presidency, as could be gleaned from some of the comments left on articles and social media activity.

It did appear for some time at least that a good number of Trump supporters were reading Consortiumnews, which could probably be attributed to the fact that the website was one of the few outlets pushing back against both the “New Cold War” with Russia and the related story of “Russiagate,” which Bob didn’t even like referring to as a “scandal.” (As an editor, he preferred to use the word “controversy” on the website, because as far as he was concerned, the allegations against Trump and his supposed “collusion” with Russia did not rise to the level of actual scandals such as Watergate or Iran-Contra.)

In his view, the perhaps understandable hatred of Trump felt by many Americans – both inside and outside the Beltway – had led to an abandonment of old-fashioned rules of journalism and standards of fairness, which should be applied even to someone like Donald Trump.

“On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump ‘Resistance,’” Bob wrote in his final article for Consortiumnews.

“The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster,” he said. “Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.”

He marveled that even senior editors in the mainstream media treated the unproven Russiagate allegations as flat fact.

“No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions,” Bob wrote. “Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

An Untimely End and the Future of Consortiumnews

My dad’s untimely passing has come as a shock to us all, especially since up until a month ago, there was no indication whatsoever that he was sick in any way. He took good care of himself, never smoked, got regular check-ups, exercised, and ate well. The unexpected health issues starting with a mild stroke Christmas Eve and culminating with his admission into hospice care several days ago offer a stark reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.

And as many Consortiumnews readers have eloquently pointed out in comments left on recent articles regarding Bob’s health, it also reminds us that his brand of journalism is needed today more than ever.

“We need free will thinkers like you who value the truth based on the evidence and look past the group think in Washington to report on the real reasons for our government’s and our media’s actions which attempt to deceive us all,” wrote, for example, “FreeThinker.”

“Common sense and integrity are the hallmarks of Robert Parry’s journalism. May you get better soon for you are needed more now then ever before,” wrote “T.J.”

“We need a new generation of reporters, journalists, writers, and someone always being tenacious to follow up on the story,” added “Tina.”

As someone who has been involved with this website since its inception – as a writer, an editor and a reader – I concur with these sentiments. Readers should rest assured that despite my dad’s death, every effort will be made to ensure that the website will continue going strong.

Indeed, I think that everyone involved with this project wants to uphold the same commitment to truth-telling without fear or favor that inspired Bob and his heroes like George Seldes, I.F. Stone, and Thomas Paine.

That commitment can be seen in my dad’s pursuit of stories such as those mentioned above, but also so many others – including his investigations into the financial relationship of the influential Washington Times with the Unification Church cult of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the truth behind the Nixon campaign’s alleged efforts to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson’s Paris peace talks with Vietnamese leaders in 1968, the reality of the chemical attack in Syria in 2013, and even detailed examinations of the evidence behind the so-called “Deflategate” controversy that he felt unfairly branded his favorite football team, the New England Patriots, as cheaters.

Reviewing these journalistic achievements, it becomes clear that there are few stories that have slipped under Consortiumnews.com’s radar, and that the historical record is far more complete thanks to this website and Bob’s old-fashioned approach to journalism.

But besides this deeply held commitment to independent journalism, it should also be recalled that, ultimately, Bob was motivated by a concern over the future of life on Earth. As someone who grew up at the height of the Cold War, he understood the dangers of allowing tensions and hysteria to spiral out of control, especially in a world such as ours with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on the planet many times over.

As the United States continues down the path of a New Cold War, my dad would be pleased to know that he has such committed contributors who will enable the site to remain the indispensable home for independent journalism that it has become, and continue to push back on false narratives that threaten our very survival.

Thank you all for your support.

In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family asks you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Consortium for Independent Journalism.

While you are here, we want to make sure you know how vital the support of people like you is to our work.

As 2021 unfolds, uncompromising and relentlessly critical journalism that gets to the roots of the crises we are facing will be more important than ever. We don’t rely on advertising to fund our work—we rely on our readers and viewers.

If you want to help us keep producing more of the radically independent news and in-depth analysis The Real News provides, please consider making a tax-deductible donation or becoming a monthly sustainer.


Robert Parry: Reagan Didn't End the Cold War

The U.S. news media&rsquos reaction to Ronald Reagan&rsquos death is putting on display what has happened to American public debate in the years since Reagan&rsquos political rise in the late 1970s: a near-total collapse of serious analytical thinking at the national level.

Across the U.S. television dial and in major American newspapers, the commentary is fawning almost in a Pravda-like way, far beyond the normal reticence against speaking ill of the dead. Left-of-center commentators compete with conservatives to hail Reagan&rsquos supposedly genial style and his alleged role in &ldquowinning the Cold War.&rdquo The Washington Post&rsquos front-page headline &ndash &ldquoRonald Reagan Dies&rdquo &ndash was in giant type more fitting the Moon Landing.

Yet absent from the media commentary was the one fundamental debate that must be held before any reasonable assessment can be made of Ronald Reagan and his Presidency: How, why and when was the Cold War &ldquowon&rdquo? If, for instance, the United States was already on the verge of victory over a foundering Soviet Union in the early-to-mid-1970s, as some analysts believe, then Reagan&rsquos true historic role may not have been &ldquowinning&rdquo the Cold War, but helping to extend it.

If the Soviet Union was already in rapid decline, rather than in the ascendancy that Reagan believed, then the massive U.S. military build-up in the 1980s was not decisive it was excessive. The terrible bloodshed in Central America and Africa, including death squad activities by U.S. clients, was not some necessary evil it was a war crime aided and abetted by the Reagan administration.

That debate, however, has never been engaged, except by Reagan acolytes who chose to glorify Reagan&rsquos role in &ldquowinning the Cold War&rdquo rather than examining the assumptions that guided his policies in the 1970s and 1980s. Although it&rsquos largely forgotten now, Reagan&rsquos rise within the Republican Party was as a challenge to the &ldquodétente&rdquo strategies pursued by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger &ndash before the Watergate scandal forced Nixon from office &ndash and later by Gerald Ford. Détente was, in effect, an effort to ease the Cold War to an end, much as finally occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Cold Warriors Nixon and Kissinger &ndash along with much of the U.S. intelligence community &ndash had recognized the systemic weaknesses of the Soviet system, which was falling desperately behind the West in technology and in the ability to produce consumer goods desired by the peoples of Eastern Europe. One only needed to look at night-time satellite photos to see the disparity between the glittering city lights of North America, Western Europe and parts of Asia compared to the darkness across the Soviet bloc.

Under this analysis of Soviet weakness, the 1970s was the time for the West to accept victory and begin transitioning the Soviet Union out of its failed economic model. Not only could that approach have hastened the emergence of a new generation of Russian reformers, it would have allowed world leaders to pull back from the edge of nuclear confrontation. Third World civil wars also could have been addressed as local conflicts, not East-West tests of strength.

But American conservatives &ndash and a new group of neoconservatives who would become the ideological backbone of the Reagan administration &ndash saw the situation differently. They insisted that the Soviet Union was on the rise militarily with plans to surround the United States and eventually conquer it by attacking through the &ldquosoft underbelly&rdquo of Central America.

In 1976, then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush gave an important boost to this apocalyptic vision by allowing a group of conservative analysts, including a young Paul Wolfowitz, inside the CIA&rsquos analytical division. The group, known as &ldquoTeam B,&rdquo was permitted to review highly classified U.S. intelligence on the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly, Team B came up with conclusions matching its members&rsquo preconceptions, that the CIA had underestimated the Soviet military ascendancy and its plans to gain world domination.

Along with the Team B analysis came the theories of academic Jeane Kirkpatrick, who made a name for herself with an analysis that differentiated between &ldquoauthoritarian&rdquo and &ldquototalitarian&rdquo governments. In Kirkpatrick&rsquos theory, right-wing &ldquoauthoritarian&rdquo governments were preferable to left-wing &ldquocommunist&rdquo governments because authoritarian governments could evolve toward democracy while communist governments couldn&rsquot.

These two factors &ndash the Team B take on the military rise of the Soviet bloc and the Kirkpatrick Doctrine&rsquos view of immutable communist regimes &ndash guided Reagan&rsquos foreign policy. Reagan relied on these analyses to justify both his massive U.S. military build-up in the 1980s (which put the U.S. government deeply into debt) and his support for right-wing regimes that engaged in blood baths against their opponents (especially across Latin America).

As far back as the late 1970s, for instance, Reagan defended the Argentine military junta while it was engaged in the use of state terror and was &ldquodisappearing&rdquo tens of thousands of dissidents. Those tactics included barbaric acts such as cutting babies out of pregnant women so the mothers could then be executed while the babies were given to the murderers. [See Consortiumnews.com's"Argentina's Dapper State Terrorist."]

In the 1980s in Guatemala, Reagan aided military regimes that waged scorched-earth campaigns against rural peasants, including genocide against Indian populations. Reagan personally attacked the human rights reports describing atrocities inflicted on hundreds of Mayan villages. On Dec. 4, 1982, after meeting with Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, Reagan hailed the general as"totally dedicated to democracy" and asserted that Rios Montt's government was"getting a bum rap." [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's"Reagan & Guatemala's Death Files."]

Tens of thousands more people died at the hands of right-wing security forces in El Salvador and Honduras, while in Nicaragua, Reagan funneled support to the contras, who behaved like a kind of death-squad-in-waiting, committing widespread atrocities against Nicaraguan civilians while funding some operations with cocaine trafficking to the United States. [For details, see Robert Parry's Lost History .]

It followed, after all, that if the Soviet Union were on the verge of world conquest and if that would mean permanent slavery, then desperate measures were required. But the problem with the Team B analysis and the Kirkpatrick Doctrine was that both were wrong.


October 19, 2006: New York Times Errs in Saying Military Commissions Act Does Not Apply to US Citizens

The New York Times pens an editorial issuing a grim warning about the ramifications of the newly passed Military Commission Act (MCA—see October 17, 2006). The editorial calls the law’s stripping of habeas corpus rights for so-called “enemy combatants” “undemocratic.” It criticizes the highly charged rhetoric of the Republicans who attacked Democrats in opposition to the law as part of the Republican Party’s “scare-America-first strategy” for the upcoming midterm elections. The Times notes that President Bush misled the country into believing that the MCA is the only way the country has of adequately putting 9/11 suspects on trial: “The truth is that Mr. Bush could have done that long ago, but chose to detain them illegally at hidden CIA camps to extract information. He sent them to Guantanamo only to stampede Congress into passing the new law. The 60 or so men at Guantanamo who are now facing tribunals—out of about 450 inmates—also could have been tried years ago if Mr. Bush had not rebuffed efforts by Congress to create suitable courts. He imposed a system of kangaroo courts that was more about expanding his power than about combating terrorism.” The editorial criticizes Bush’s new “separate system of justice for any foreigner whom Mr. Bush chooses to designate as an ‘illegal enemy combatant,” one that “raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions [and] does not require the government to release prisoners who are not being charged, or a prisoner who is exonerated by the tribunals.” However, the editorial gives false comfort to its readers by asserting that the MCA “does not apply to American citizens, but it does apply to other legal United States residents.” [New York Times, 10/19/2006]
Times Errs in Stating MCA Does Not Apply to US Citizens - Most other mainstream media outlets do not mention the possibility of the MCA applying to US citizens. But on the same day as the Times editorial, author and investigative journalist Robert Parry gives a powerful argument that the MCA can indeed be applied to them. The MCA reads in part, “Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission.… Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States… shall be punished as a military commission… may direct.” The legal meaning of “any person,” Parry notes, clearly includes US citizens, particularly those who may act “in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States.” Parry asks, “Who has ‘an allegiance or duty to the United States’ if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreign citizens. This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens.” If an American citizen is charged with a crime under the MCA, that citizen, like the foreign nationals currently laboring under the weight of the law, cannot challenge their detention and charges under the habeas corpus provisions of US law, and cannot expect a fair trial. They will not be given the chance to appeal their convictions until they are prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced. And since the MCA defendant has no right to a “speedy trial,” that defendant cannot expect to be granted an appeal in any reasonable length of time. In effect, an American citizen, like a foreign national charged under the MCA, can be imprisoned indefinitely without recourse to the US judiciary.
Potential to Jail Media Leakers and Reporters - One aspect of the MCA that has not been widely discussed, Parry notes, is the provision that would allow the incarceration of “any person” who “collects or attempts to collect information by clandestine means or while acting under false pretenses, for the purpose of conveying such information to an enemy of the United States.” That provision is tremendously vague, and could easily be stretched to fit, for example, the whistleblowers who revealed the existence of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program to the Times (see December 15, 2005) and the reporters and editors who published the story based on those revelations. [Consortium News, 10/19/2006] Six months later, a Justice Department lawyer will confirm that the Bush administration believes MCA does indeed apply to US citizens (see February 1, 2007).


The Second Amendment&rsquos Fake History

False history continues to kill Americans, as we saw once again last week at Umpqua Community College in Oregon where a disturbed young man whose mother had loaded the house with loaded handguns and rifles executed nine people and then committed suicide &ndash one more mind-numbing slaughter made possible, in part, by an erroneous understanding of the Second Amendment.

A key reason why the United States is frozen in political paralysis, unable to protect its citizens from the next deranged gunman and the next massacre, is that many on the American Right (and some on the Left) have sold much of the country on a false history regarding the Second Amendment. Gun-rights advocates insist that the carnage can&rsquot be stopped because it was part of what the Constitution&rsquos Framers designed.

Republican presidential candidates have been among the leaders in promoting this fake narrative, with surgeon Ben Carson saying the latest slaughter and all the other thousands of shootings are just part of the price of freedom. &ldquoI never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,&rdquo Carson said, noting that he had removed bullets from a number of gunshot victims.

But the Constitution&rsquos Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 never intended the Second Amendment to be construed as the right for individuals to take up arms against the Republic. In fact, their intent was the opposite.

The actual goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order in a time of political uprisings, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, its defined purpose was to achieve &ldquosecurity&rdquo against disruptions to the country&rsquos republican form of government. The Second Amendment read:

&ldquoA well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.&rdquo In other words, if read in context, it&rsquos clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form &ldquoa well-regulated militia&rdquo to maintain &ldquosecurity,&rdquo i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.

In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of &ldquobearing&rdquo arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn&rsquot mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.

No Anarchists

Yet, one of the false themes peddled by some on the Right and the Left is that the Framers, having won a revolution against the British Crown, wanted to arm the population so the people could rebel against the Republic created by the U.S. Constitution. This vision of the Framers of the Constitution and members of the First Congress as some anarchists wanting an armed population to overthrow the government if the people weren&rsquot happy with something is completely opposite of what was intended.

Whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress, they constituted the early national establishment &ndash people like George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris. They feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted.

According to the idea of a representative democracy, the Framers sought a system that reflected the will of the citizens but within a framework that constrained the passions of democracy. In other words, the Constitution sought to channel political disputes into non-violent competition among various interests. The Framers also recognized how fragile the nation&rsquos independence was and how domestic rebellions could be exploited by European powers.

Indeed, one of the crises that led to the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787 was the inability of the old system under the Articles of Confederation to put down Shays&rsquos Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786-87. So, the Federalists were seeking a system that would ensure &ldquodomestic Tranquility,&rdquo as they explained in the Constitution&rsquos Preamble. They did not want endless civil strife.

The whole idea of the Constitution &ndash with its mix of voting, elected and appointed representatives, and checks and balances &ndash was to create a political structure that made violence unnecessary. In other words, the Framers weren&rsquot encouraging violent uprisings against the Republic that they were founding. To the contrary, they characterized violence against the constitutional system as &ldquotreason&rdquo in Article III, Section 3. They also committed the federal government to protect each state from &ldquodomestic Violence,&rdquo in Article IV, Section 4.

One of the first uses of the new state militias formed under the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts, which required able-bodied men to report for duty with their own muskets, was for President Washington to lead a federalized force of militiamen against the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt in western Pennsylvania in 1794.

In the South, one of the principal reasons for a militia was to rally armed whites to put down slave uprisings. Again, the Second Amendment was meant to maintain public order &ndash even an unjust order &ndash rather than to empower the oppressed to take up arms against the government. That latter idea was a modern reinterpretation &ndash or distortion &ndash of the history.

The Constitution&rsquos Framers were not some early version of Leon Trotsky favoring permanent revolution. The most radical-talking leader at the time, Thomas Jefferson, had little to do with either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since he was serving as a diplomat in France at the time.

Yet, the revisionists who have transformed the meaning of the Second Amendment love to cite provocative comments by Jefferson, such as a quote from a 1787 letter criticizing the Constitution for its commander-in-chief provisions. Jefferson argued that violence, like Shays&rsquos Rebellion, was to be welcomed. He declared that &ldquoThe tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it&rsquos [sic] natural manure.&rdquo

It is ironic, however, that Jefferson was never willing to risk his own blood as that &ldquonatural manure.&rdquo During the Revolutionary War when traitor Benedict Arnold led a force of Loyalists against Richmond, Jefferson, who was then Virginia&rsquos governor, declined to rally the state militia in defense of the capital but rather fled for his life. Later, when British cavalry approached Charlottesville and his home of Monticello, Gov. Jefferson again took flight.

However, Jefferson was eager for Virginia to have a state militia of armed whites to crush possible black slave rebellions, another prospect that terrified him. As a slaveholder and a pseudo-scientific racist, Jefferson surely did not envision blacks as having any individual right to own guns themselves or to fight for their own liberty. Reflecting on blacks who fought bravely in the Revolution, Jefferson concluded that their courage was an illusion resulting from their intellectual inability to recognize danger.

Yet, whatever one thinks of Jefferson&rsquos racism and cowardice, it&rsquos a historical error to cite Jefferson in any way as speaking definitively about what the Framers intended with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was not directly involved in either.

A Collective Right

The real history of the Second Amendment was well understood both by citizens and courts in the generations after the Constitution and Bill of Rights were enacted. For most of the years of the Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment as a collective right, allowing Americans to participate in a &ldquowell-regulated Militia,&rdquo not an individual right to buy the latest weaponry at a gun show or stockpile a military-style arsenal in the basement.

It&rsquos true that many Americans owned a musket or rifle in those early years especially on the frontier, but regulations on munitions were still common in cities where storing of gunpowder, for instance, represented a threat to the public safety. As the nation spread westward, so did common-sense restrictions on gun violence. Sheriffs in some of the wildest of Wild West towns enforced gun bans that today would prompt a recall election financed by the National Rifle Association.

However, in recent decades &ndash understanding the power of narrative on the human imagination &ndash a resurgent American Right (and some on the Left) rewrote the history of the Founding era, dispatching &ldquoresearchers&rdquo to cherry-pick or fabricate quotes from Revolutionary War leaders to create politically convenient illusions. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik&rsquos compilation of apocryphal or out-of-context gun quotes.]

That bogus history gave rise to the image of the Framers being wild-eyed radicals encouraging armed rebellion against the Republic. Rather than people who believed in the rule of law and social order, the Framers were contorted into crazies who wanted citizens to be empowered to shoot police, soldiers, elected representatives and government officials.

This false history was advanced particularly by the American Right in the last half of the Twentieth Century as a kind of neo-Confederate call to arms, with the goal of rallying whites into a near-insurrectionary fury particularly in the South but also in rural areas of the North and West. Many fancied themselves an armed resistance against the tyrannical federal government.

Southern whites brandished guns and engaged in violence to resist the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when the federal government finally stepped in to end Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. In the 1990s, &ldquocitizens militias&rdquo began to pop up in reaction to the election of Democrat Bill Clinton, culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1994.

While designed primarily for the weak-minded, the Right&rsquos faux Founding history also had an impact on right-wing &ldquointellectuals&rdquo including Republican lawyers who worked their way up through the federal judiciary under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

By 2008, these right-wing jurists held a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and could thus overturn generations of legal precedents and declare that the Second Amendment established an individual right for Americans to own guns. Though even these five right-wing justices accepted society&rsquos right to protect the general welfare of the population through some gun control, the Supreme Court&rsquos ruling effectively &ldquovalidated&rdquo the Right&rsquos made-up history.

The ruling created a political dynamic in which even liberals in national politics, the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, had to genuflect to the supposed Second Amendment right of Americans to parade around in public with guns on their hips and high-powered semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

What the Framers Wanted?

As guns-right activists struck down gun regulations in Congress and in statehouses across the nation, their dominant argument was that the Second Amendment offered no leeway for restrictions on gun ownership it&rsquos what the Framers wanted.

So, pretty much any unstable person could load up with a vast killing capacity and slouch off to a bar, a work place, a church or a school &ndash even an elementary school &ndash and treat fellow Americans as targets in a violent video game. Somehow, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was overtaken by the &ldquoright&rdquo to own an AR-15 with a 30-or-100-bullet magazine.

When right-wing politicians talk about the Second Amendment now, they don&rsquot even bother to include the preamble that explains the point of the amendment. The entire amendment is only 26 words. But the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another Republican presidential candidate, find the preamble inconvenient because it would undercut the false storyline. So they just lop off the first 12 words.

Nor do they explain what the Framers meant by &ldquobear arms.&rdquo The phrase reflected the reasoning in the Second Amendment&rsquos preamble that the whole point was to create &ldquowell-regulated&rdquo state militias to maintain &ldquosecurity,&rdquo not to free up anybody with a beef to kill government officials or citizens of a disapproved race or creed. (The Oregon gunman targeted practicing Christians a previous gunman in South Carolina went after African-Americans in a church.)

Yet, after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano declared : &ldquoThe historical reality of the Second Amendment&rsquos protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.&rdquo

At the time, the clear message from the Right was that armed Americans must confront the &ldquotyrannical&rdquo Barack Obama &ndash the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) &ndash especially if he pressed ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions.

But Napolitano is simply wrong on the history. The Second Amendment was designed for states to maintain &ldquosecurity,&rdquo whether that meant putting down a tax rebellion in Pennsylvania, a slave revolt in the South or a Native American uprising on the frontier. One can disagree about the rightness of those actions by state or federal authorities, but the history is clear.

The Second Amendment was not designed to encourage violence against the government or &ndash for that matter &ndash to enable troubled individuals to murder large numbers of their fellow citizens.


The Modern History of &lsquoRigged&rsquo US Elections

The United States is so committed to the notion that its electoral process is the world&rsquos &ldquogold standard&rdquo that there has been a bipartisan determination to maintain the fiction even when evidence is overwhelming that a U.S. presidential election has been manipulated or stolen. The &ldquowise men&rdquo of the system simply insist otherwise.

We have seen this behavior when there are serious questions of vote tampering (as in Election 1960) or when a challenger apparently exploits a foreign crisis to create an advantage over the incumbent (as in Elections 1968 and 1980) or when the citizens&rsquo judgment is overturned by judges (as in Election 2000).

Strangely, in such cases, it is not only the party that benefited which refuses to accept the evidence of wrongdoing, but the losing party and the establishment news media as well. Protecting the perceived integrity of the U.S. democratic process is paramount. Americans must continue to believe in the integrity of the system even when that integrity has been violated.

The harsh truth is that pursuit of power often trumps the principle of an informed electorate choosing the nation&rsquos leaders, but that truth simply cannot be recognized.

Of course, historically, American democracy was far from perfect, excluding millions of people, including African-American slaves and women. The compromises needed to enact the Constitution in 1787 also led to distasteful distortions, such as counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of representation (although obviously slaves couldn&rsquot vote).

That unsavory deal enabled Thomas Jefferson to defeat John Adams in the pivotal national election of 1800. In effect, the votes of Southern slave owners like Jefferson counted substantially more than the votes of Northern non-slave owners.

Even after the Civil War when the Constitution was amended to give black men voting rights, the reality for black voting, especially in the South, was quite different from the new constitutional mandate. Whites in former Confederate states concocted subterfuges to keep blacks away from the polls to ensure continued white supremacy for almost a century.

Women did not gain suffrage until 1920 with the passage of another constitutional amendment, and it took federal legislation in 1965 to clear away legal obstacles that Southern states had created to deny the franchise to blacks.

Indeed, the alleged voter fraud in Election 1960, concentrated largely in Texas, a former Confederate state and home to John Kennedy&rsquos vice presidential running mate, Lyndon Johnson, could be viewed as an outgrowth of the South&rsquos heritage of rigging elections in favor of Democrats, the post-Civil War party of white Southerners.

However, by pushing through civil rights for blacks in the 1960s, Kennedy and Johnson earned the enmity of many white Southerners who switched their allegiance to the Republican Party via Richard Nixon&rsquos Southern strategy of coded racial messaging. Nixon also harbored resentments over what he viewed as his unjust defeat in the election of 1960.

So, by 1968, the Democrats&rsquo once solid South was splintering, but Nixon, who was again the Republican presidential nominee, didn&rsquot want to leave his chances of winning what looked to be another close election to chance. Nixon feared that &mdash with the Vietnam War raging and the Democratic Party deeply divided &mdash President Johnson could give the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a decisive boost by reaching a last-minute peace deal with North Vietnam.

The documentary and testimonial evidence is now clear that to avert a peace deal, Nixon&rsquos campaign went behind Johnson&rsquos back to persuade South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to torpedo Johnson&rsquos Paris peace talks by refusing to attend. Nixon&rsquos emissaries assured Thieu that a President Nixon would continue the war and guarantee a better outcome for South Vietnam.

Though Johnson had strong evidence of what he privately called Nixon&rsquos &ldquotreason&rdquo &mdash from FBI wiretaps in the days before the 1968 election &mdash he and his top advisers chose to stay silent. In a Nov. 4, 1968 conference call , Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Advisor Walt Rostow and Defense Secretary Clark Clifford &ndash three pillars of the Establishment &ndash expressed that consensus, with Clifford explaining the thinking:

&ldquoSome elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I&rsquom wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected,&rdquo Clifford said. &ldquoIt could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country&rsquos interests.&rdquo

Clifford&rsquos words expressed the recurring thinking whenever evidence emerged casting the integrity of America&rsquos electoral system in doubt, especially at the presidential level. The American people were not to know what kind of dirty deeds could affect that process.

To this day, the major U.S. news media will not directly address the issue of Nixon&rsquos treachery in 1968, despite the wealth of evidence proving this historical reality now available from declassified records at the Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas. In a puckish recognition of this ignored history, the library&rsquos archivists call the file on Nixon&rsquos sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks their &ldquoX-file.&rdquo [For details, see Consortiumnews.com&rsquos &ldquo LBJ&rsquos &lsquoX-File&rsquo on Nixon&rsquos &lsquoTreason. &rsquo&rdquo]

The evidence also strongly suggests that Nixon&rsquos paranoia about a missing White House file detailing his &ldquotreason&rdquo &ndash top secret documents that Johnson had entrusted to Rostow at the end of LBJ&rsquos presidency &ndash led to Nixon&rsquos creation of the &ldquoplumbers,&rdquo a team of burglars whose first assignment was to locate those purloined papers. The existence of the &ldquoplumbers&rdquo became public in June 1972 when they were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee&rsquos headquarters at the Watergate in Washington.

Although the Watergate scandal remains the archetypal case of election-year dirty tricks, the major U.S. news media never acknowledge the link between Watergate and Nixon&rsquos far more egregious dirty trick four years earlier, sinking Johnson&rsquos Vietnam peace talks while 500,000 American soldiers were in the war zone. In part because of Nixon&rsquos sabotage &mdash and his promise to Thieu of a more favorable outcome &mdash the war continued for four more bloody years before being settled along the lines that were available to Johnson in 1968. [See Consortiumnews.com&rsquos &ldquo The Heinous Crime Behind Watergate .&rdquo]

In effect, Watergate gets walled off as some anomaly that is explained by Nixon&rsquos strange personality. However, even though Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974, he and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, who also had a hand in the Paris peace talk caper, reappear as secondary players in the next well-documented case of obstructing a sitting president&rsquos foreign policy to get an edge in the 1980 campaign.

Reagan&rsquos &lsquoOctober Surprise&rsquo Caper

In that case, President Jimmy Carter was seeking reelection and trying to negotiate release of 52 American hostages then held in revolutionary Iran. Ronald Reagan&rsquos campaign feared that Carter might pull off an &ldquoOctober Surprise&rdquo by bringing home the hostages just before the election. So, this historical mystery has been: Did Reagan&rsquos team take action to block Carter&rsquos October Surprise?

The testimonial and documentary evidence that Reagan&rsquos team did engage in a secret operation to prevent Carter&rsquos October Surprise is now almost as overwhelming as the proof of the 1968 affair regarding Nixon&rsquos Paris peace talk maneuver.

That evidence indicates that Reagan&rsquos campaign director William Casey organized a clandestine effort to prevent the hostages&rsquo release before Election Day, after apparently consulting with Nixon and Kissinger and aided by former CIA Director George H.W. Bush, who was Reagan&rsquos vice presidential running mate.

By early November 1980, the public&rsquos obsession with Iran&rsquos humiliation of the United States and Carter&rsquos inability to free the hostages helped turn a narrow race into a Reagan landslide. When the hostages were finally let go immediately after Reagan&rsquos inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, his supporters cited the timing to claim that the Iranians had finally relented out of fear of Reagan.

Bolstered by his image as a tough guy, Reagan enacted much of his right-wing agenda, including passing massive tax cuts benefiting the wealthy, weakening unions and creating the circumstances for the rapid erosion of the Great American Middle Class.

Behind the scenes, the Reagan administration signed off on secret arms shipments to Iran, mostly through Israel, what a variety of witnesses described as the payoff for Iran&rsquos cooperation in getting Reagan elected and then giving him the extra benefit of timing the hostage release to immediately follow his inauguration.

In summer 1981, when Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Nicholas Veliotes learned about the arms shipments to Iran, he checked on their origins and said, later in a PBS interview:

&ldquoIt was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. &hellip [This operation] seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration. And I understand some contacts were made at that time.&rdquo

Those early covert arms shipments to Iran evolved into a later secret set of arms deals that surfaced in fall 1986 as the Iran-Contra Affair, with some of the profits getting recycled back to Reagan&rsquos beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels fighting to overthrow Nicaragua&rsquos leftist government.

While many facts of the Iran-Contra scandal were revealed by congressional and special-prosecutor investigations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the origins of the Reagan-Iran relationship was always kept hazy. The Republicans were determined to stop any revelations about the 1980 contacts, but the Democrats were almost as reluctant to go there.

A half-hearted congressional inquiry was launched in 1991 and depended heavily on then-President George H.W. Bush to collect the evidence and arrange interviews for the investigation. In other words, Bush, who was then seeking reelection and who was a chief suspect in the secret dealings with Iran, was entrusted with proving his own guilt.

Tired of the Story

By the early 1990s, the mainstream U.S. news media was also tired of the complex Iran-Contra scandal and wanted to move on. As a correspondent at Newsweek, I had battled senior editors over their disinterest in getting to the bottom of the scandal before I left the magazine in 1990. I then received an assignment from PBS Frontline to look into the 1980 &ldquoOctober Surprise&rdquo question, which led to a documentary on the subject in April 1991.

However, by fall 1991, just as Congress was agreeing to open an investigation, my ex-bosses at Newsweek, along with The New Republic, then an elite neoconservative publication interested in protecting Israel&rsquos exposure on those early arms deals, went on the attack. They published matching cover stories deeming the 1980 &ldquoOctober Surprise&rdquo case a hoax, but their articles were both based on a misreading of documents recording Casey&rsquos attendance at a conference in London in July 1980, which he seemed to have used as a cover for a side trip to Madrid to meet with senior Iranians regarding the hostages.

Although the bogus Newsweek/New Republic &ldquoLondon alibi&rdquo would eventually be debunked, it created a hostile climate for the investigation. With Bush angrily denying everything and the congressional Republicans determined to protect the President&rsquos flanks, the Democrats mostly just went through the motions of an investigation.

Meanwhile, Bush&rsquos State Department and White House counsel&rsquos office saw their jobs as discrediting the investigation, deep-sixing incriminating documents, and helping a key witness dodge a congressional subpoena.

Years later, I discovered a document at the Bush presidential library in College Station, Texas, confirming that Casey had taken a mysterious trip to Madrid in 1980. The U.S. Embassy&rsquos confirmation of Casey&rsquos trip was passed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to Associate White House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as the congressional inquiry was taking shape.

Williamson said that among the State Department &ldquomaterial potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,&rdquo Beach noted in a &ldquo memorandum for record &rdquo dated Nov. 4, 1991.

Two days later, on Nov. 6, Beach&rsquos boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, convened an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush&rsquos reelection hopes in 1992.

At the meeting, Gray laid out how to thwart the October Surprise inquiry, which was seen as a dangerous expansion of the Iran-Contra investigation. The prospect that the two sets of allegations would merge into a single narrative represented a grave threat to George H.W. Bush&rsquos reelection campaign. As assistant White House counsel Ronald vonLembke, put it , the White House goal in 1991 was to &ldquokill/spike this story.&rdquo

Gray explained the stakes at the White House strategy session. &ldquoWhatever form they ultimately take, the House and Senate &lsquoOctober Surprise&rsquo investigations, like Iran-Contra, will involve interagency concerns and be of special interest to the President ,&rdquo Gray declared, according to minutes . [Emphasis in original.]

Among &ldquotouchstones&rdquo cited by Gray were &ldquoNo Surprises to the White House, and Maintain Ability to Respond to Leaks in Real Time. This is Partisan.&rdquo White House &ldquotalking points&rdquo on the October Surprise investigation urged restricting the inquiry to 1979-80 and imposing strict time limits for issuing any findings.

Timid Democrats

But Bush&rsquos White House really had little to fear because whatever evidence that the congressional investigation received &ndash and a great deal arrived in December 1992 and January 1993 &ndash there was no stomach for actually proving that the 1980 Reagan campaign had conspired with Iranian radicals to extend the captivity of 52 Americans in order to ensure Reagan&rsquos election victory.

That would have undermined the faith of the American people in their democratic process &ndash and that, as Clark Clifford said in the 1968 context, would not be &ldquogood for the country.&rdquo

In 2014 when I sent a copy of Beach&rsquos memo regarding Casey&rsquos trip to Madrid to former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, who had chaired the October Surprise inquiry in 1991-93, he told me that it had shaken his confidence in the task force&rsquos dismissive conclusions about the October Surprise issue.

&ldquoThe [Bush-41] White House did not notify us that he [Casey] did make the trip&rdquo to Madrid, Hamilton told me. &ldquoShould they have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we were interested in that.&rdquo

Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the task force&rsquos dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was key to the task force&rsquos investigation.

&ldquoIf the White House knew that Casey was there, they certainly should have shared it with us,&rdquo Hamilton said, adding that &ldquoyou have to rely on people&rdquo in authority to comply with information requests. But that trust was at the heart of the inquiry&rsquos failure. With the money and power of the American presidency at stake, the idea that George H.W. Bush and his team would help an investigation that might implicate him in an act close to treason was naïve in the extreme.

Arguably, Hamilton&rsquos timid investigation was worse than no investigation at all because it gave Bush&rsquos team the opportunity to search out incriminating documents and make them disappear. Then, Hamilton&rsquos investigative conclusion reinforced the &ldquogroup think&rdquo dismissing this serious manipulation of democracy as a &ldquoconspiracy theory&rdquo when it was anything but. In the years since, Hamilton hasn&rsquot done anything to change the public impression that the Reagan campaign was innocent.

Still, among the few people who have followed this case, the October Surprise cover-up would slowly crumble with admissions by officials involved in the investigation that its exculpatory conclusions were rushed , that crucial evidence had been hidden or ignored , and that some alibis for key Republicans didn&rsquot make any sense .

But the dismissive &ldquogroup think&rdquo remains undisturbed as far as the major U.S. media and mainstream historians are concerned. [For details, see Robert Parry&rsquos America&rsquos Stolen Narrative or Trick or Treason: The 1980 October Surprise Mystery or Consortiumnews.com&rsquos &ldquo Second Thoughts on October Surprise. &rdquo]

Past as Prologue

Lee Hamilton&rsquos decision to &ldquoclear&rdquo Reagan and Bush of the 1980 October Surprise suspicions in 1992 was not simply a case of miswriting history. The findings had clear implications for the future as well, since the public impression about George H.W. Bush&rsquos rectitude was an important factor in the support given to his oldest son, George W. Bush, in 2000.

Indeed, if the full truth had been told about the father&rsquos role in the October Surprise and Iran-Contra cases, it&rsquos hard to imagine that his son would have received the Republican nomination, let alone made a serious run for the White House. And, if that history were known, there might have been a stronger determination on the part of Democrats to resist another Bush &ldquostolen election&rdquo in 2000.

Regarding Election 2000, the evidence is now clear that Vice President Al Gore not only won the national popular vote but received more votes that were legal under Florida law than did George W. Bush. But Bush relied first on the help of officials working for his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, and then on five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to thwart a full recount and to award him Florida&rsquos electoral votes and thus the presidency.

The reality of Gore&rsquos rightful victory should have finally become clear in November 2001 when a group of news organizations finished their own examination of Florida&rsquos disputed ballots and released their tabulations showing that Gore would have won if all ballots considered legal under Florida law were counted.

However, between the disputed election and the release of those numbers, the 9/11 attacks had occurred, so The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other leading outlets did not want the American people to know that the wrong person was in the White House. Surely, telling the American people that fact amid the 9/11 crisis would not be &ldquogood for the country.&rdquo

So, senior editors at all the top new organizations decided to mislead the public by framing their stories in a deceptive way to obscure the most newsworthy discovery &ndash that the so-called &ldquoover-votes&rdquo in which voters both checked and wrote in their choices&rsquo names broke heavily for Gore and would have put him over the top regardless of which kinds of chads were considered for the &ldquounder-votes&rdquo that hadn&rsquot registered on antiquated voting machines. &ldquoOver-votes&rdquo would be counted under Florida law which bases its standards on &ldquoclear intent of the voter.&rdquo

However, instead of leading with Gore&rsquos rightful victory, the news organizations concocted hypotheticals around partial recounts that still would have given Florida narrowly to Bush. They either left out or buried the obvious lede that a historic injustice had occurred.

On Nov. 12, 2001, the day that the news organizations ran those stories, I examined the actual data and quickly detected the evidence of Gore&rsquos victory. In a story that day, I suggested that senior news executives were exercising a misguided sense of patriotism. They had hid the reality for &ldquothe good of the country,&rdquo much as Johnson&rsquos team had done in 1968 regarding Nixon&rsquos sabotage of the Paris peace talks and Hamilton&rsquos inquiry had done regarding the 1980 &ldquoOctober Surprise&rdquo case.

Within a couple of hours of my posting the article at Consortiumnews.com, I received an irate phone call from The New York Times media writer Felicity Barringer, who accused me of impugning the journalistic integrity of then-Times executive editor Howell Raines. I got the impression that Barringer had been on the look-out for some deviant story that didn&rsquot accept the Bush-won conventional wisdom.

However, this violation of objective and professional journalism &ndash bending the slant of a story to achieve a preferred outcome rather than simply giving the readers the most interesting angle &ndash was not simply about some historical event that had occurred a year earlier. It was about the future.

By misleading Americans into thinking that Bush was the rightful winner of Election 2000 &ndash even if the media&rsquos motivation was to maintain national unity following the 9/11 attacks &ndash the major news outlets gave Bush greater latitude to respond to the crisis, including the diversionary invasion of Iraq under false pretenses. The Bush-won headlines of November 2001 also enhanced the chances of his reelection in 2004. [For the details of how a full Florida recount would have given Gore the White House, see Consortiumnews.com&rsquos &ldquo Gore&rsquos Victory ,&rdquo &ldquo So Bush Did Steal the White House ,&rdquo and &ldquo Bush v. Gore&rsquos Dark American Decade. &rdquo]

A Phalanx of Misguided Consensus

Looking back on these examples of candidates manipulating democracy, there appears to be one common element: after the &ldquostolen&rdquo elections, the media and political establishments quickly line up, shoulder to shoulder, to assure the American people that nothing improper has happened. Graceful &ldquolosers&rdquo are patted on the back for not complaining that the voters&rsquo will had been ignored or twisted.

Al Gore is praised for graciously accepting the extraordinary ruling by Republican partisans on the Supreme Court, who stopped the counting of ballots in Florida on the grounds, as Justice Antonin Scalia said, that a count that showed Gore winning (when the Court&rsquos majority was already planning to award the White House to Bush) would undermine Bush&rsquos &ldquolegitimacy.&rdquo

Similarly, Rep. Hamilton is regarded as a modern &ldquowise man,&rdquo in part, because he conducted investigations that never pushed very hard for the truth but rather reached conclusions that were acceptable to the powers-that-be, that didn&rsquot ruffle too many feathers.

But the cumulative effect of all these half-truths, cover-ups and lies &ndash uttered for &ldquothe good of the country&rdquo &ndash is to corrode the faith of many well-informed Americans about the legitimacy of the entire process. It is the classic parable of the boy who cried wolf too many times, or in this case, assured the townspeople that there never was a wolf and that they should ignore the fact that the livestock had mysteriously disappeared leaving behind only a trail of blood into the forest.

So, when Donald Trump shows up in 2016 insisting that the electoral system is rigged against him, many Americans choose to believe his demagogy. But Trump isn&rsquot pressing for the full truth about the elections of 1968 or 1980 or 2000. He actually praises Republicans implicated in those cases and vows to appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

Trump&rsquos complaints about &ldquorigged&rdquo elections are more in line with the white Southerners during Jim Crow, suggesting that black and brown people are cheating at the polls and need to have white poll monitors to make sure they don&rsquot succeed at &ldquostealing&rdquo the election from white people.

There is a racist undertone to Trump&rsquos version of a &ldquorigged&rdquo democracy but he is not entirely wrong about the flaws in the process. He&rsquos just not honest about what those flaws are.


Contents

Robert Edwin Peary was born on May 6, 1856, in Cresson, Pennsylvania, to Charles N. and Mary P. Peary. After his father died in 1859, Peary's mother moved with their son and settled in Portland, Maine. [2] After growing up there, Peary attended Bowdoin College, some 36 mi (58 km) to the north, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. [3] He was also part of the rowing team. [4] [5] He graduated in 1877 with a civil engineering degree. [6]

Peary lived in Fryeburg, Maine, from 1878 to 1879. During that time he made a profile survey from the top of Fryeburg's Jockey Cap Rock. The 360-degree survey names the larger hills and mountains visible from the summit. After Peary's death, his boyhood friend, Alfred E. Burton, suggested that the profile survey be made into a monument. It was cast in bronze and set atop a granite cylinder and erected to his memory by the Peary family in 1938. A hike of less than a mile leads visitors to the summit and the monument. [7]

After college, Peary worked as a draftsman making technical drawings at the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey office in Washington, D.C. He joined the United States Navy and on October 26, 1881, was commissioned in the Civil Engineer Corps, with the relative rank of lieutenant. [2] From 1884 to 1885 he was an assistant engineer on the surveys for the Nicaragua Canal and later became the engineer in charge. As reflected in a diary entry he made in 1885, during his time in the Navy, he resolved to be the first man to reach the North Pole. [6]

In April 1886, he wrote a paper for the National Academy of Sciences proposing two methods for crossing Greenland's ice cap. One was to start from the west coast and trek about 400 mi (640 km) to the east coast. The second, more difficult path, was to start from Whale Sound at the top of the known portion of Baffin Bay and travel north to determine whether Greenland was an island or if it extended all the way across the Arctic. [8] Peary was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander on January 5, 1901, and to commander on April 6, 1902. [2]

Peary made his first expedition to the Arctic in 1886, intending to cross Greenland by dog sled, taking the first of his own suggested paths. He was given six months' leave from the Navy, and he received $500 from his mother to book passage north and buy supplies. He sailed on a whaler to Greenland, arriving in Godhavn on June 6, 1886. [6] Peary wanted to make a solo trek, but a young Danish official named Christian Maigaard convinced him he would die if he went out alone. Maigaard and Peary set off together and traveled nearly 100 mi (160 km) due east before turning back because they were short on food. This was the second-farthest penetration of Greenland's ice sheet at the time. Peary returned home knowing more of what was required for long-distance ice trekking. [8]

Back in Washington attending with the US Navy, in November 1887 Peary was ordered to survey likely routes for a proposed Nicaragua Canal. To complete his tropical outfit he needed a sun hat. He went to a men's clothing store where he met 21-year-old Matthew Henson, a black man working as a sales clerk. Learning that Henson had six years of seagoing experience as a cabin boy, [9] Peary immediately hired him as a personal valet. [10]

On assignment in the jungles of Nicaragua, Peary told Henson of his dream of Arctic exploration. Henson accompanied Peary on every one of his subsequent Arctic expeditions, becoming his field assistant and "first man", a critical member of his team. [8] [10]

In 1891, Peary returned to Greenland, taking the second, more difficult route that he laid out in 1886: traveling farther north to find out whether Greenland was a larger landmass extending to the North Pole. He was financed by several groups, including the American Geographic Society, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Members of this expedition included Peary's aide Henson, Frederick A. Cook, who served as the group's surgeon the expedition's ethnologist, Norwegian skier Eivind Astrup bird expert and marksman Langdon Gibson, and John M. Verhoeff, who was a weatherman and mineralogist. Peary also took his wife along as dietitian, though she had no formal training. [8] Newspaper reports criticized Peary for bringing his wife. [11]

On June 6, 1891, the party left Brooklyn, New York, in the seal hunting ship SS Kite. In July, as Kite was ramming through sheets of surface ice, the ship's iron tiller suddenly spun around and broke Peary's lower leg both bones snapped between the knee and ankle. [8] [11] [12] Peary was unloaded with the rest of the supplies at a camp they called Red Cliff, at the mouth of MacCormick Fjord at the north west end of Inglefield Gulf. A dwelling was built for his recuperation during the next six months. Josephine stayed with Peary. Gibson, Cook, Verhoeff, and Astrup hunted game by boat and became familiar with the area and the Inuit people. [8]

Unlike most previous explorers, Peary had studied Inuit survival techniques he built igloos during the expedition and dressed in practical furs in the native fashion. By wearing furs to preserve body heat and building igloos, he was able to dispense with the extra weight of tents and sleeping bags when on the march. Peary also relied on the Inuit as hunters and dog-drivers on his expeditions. He pioneered the system—which he called the "Peary system"—of using support teams and establishing supply caches for Arctic travel. The Inuit were curious about the American party and came to visit Red Cliff. Josephine was bothered by their body odor (they did not bathe), their flea infestations and their food. She studied the people, however, and kept a journal of her experiences. [11] [12] In September 1891, Peary's men took dog sled teams and pushed inland onto the ice sheet to lay caches of supplies. They did not go farther than 30 mi (48 km) from Red Cliff. [8]

Peary's leg mended by February 1892. By April, he made some short trips with Josephine and an Inuit dog sled driver to native villages to purchase supplies. On May 3, 1892, Peary finally set out on the intended trek with Henson, Gibson, Cook, and Astrup. At about the 150 mi (240 km) mark, Peary continued on with Astrup. The two found the 3,300 ft (1,000 m) high view from Navy Cliff to be revealing: they saw Independence Fjord and concluded that Greenland was an island. The men trekked back to Red Cliff and arrived on August 6, having traveled a total of 1,250 mi (2,010 km). [8]

In 1896, he received his degrees in Kane Lodge No. 454, New York City, [13] [14] and presented the Lodge the Masonic Flag that was raised on May 20–25, 1895, at Independence Bay, Greenland. [15] He was a Master Mason. [13]

As a result of Peary's 1898–1902 expedition, he claimed an 1899 visual discovery of "Jesup Land" west of Ellesmere. [16] He claimed that this sighting of Axel Heiberg Island was prior to its discovery by Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup's expedition. This contention has been universally rejected by exploration societies and historians. [17] However, the American Geographical Society and the Royal Geographical Society of London honored Peary for tenacity, mapping of previously uncharted areas, and his discovery in 1900 of Cape Jesup at the north tip of Greenland. Peary also achieved a "farthest north" for the western hemisphere in 1902 north of Canada's Ellesmere Island. Peary was promoted to lieutenant commander in the Navy in 1901 and to commander in 1902. [18]

Peary's next expedition was supported by fundraising through the Peary Arctic Club, with generous gifts of $50,000 from George Crocker, the youngest son of banker Charles Crocker, and $25,000 from Morris K. Jesup, to buy Peary a new ship. [19] The SS Roosevelt navigated through the ice between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, establishing an American hemisphere "farthest north by ship". The 1906 "Peary System" dogsled drive for the pole across the rough sea ice of the Arctic Ocean started from the north tip of Ellesmere at 83° north latitude. The parties made well under 10 mi (16 km) a day until they became separated by a storm.

As a result, Peary was without a companion sufficiently trained in navigation to verify his account from that point northward. With insufficient food, and uncertainty whether he could negotiate the ice between himself and land, he made the best possible dash and barely escaped with his life from the melting ice. On April 20, he was no farther north than 86°30' latitude. For obvious reasons, this latitude was never published by Peary. It is in a typescript of his April 1906 diary, discovered by Wally Herbert in his assessment commissioned by the National Geographic Society in the late 1980s. (Herbert, 1989). The typescript suddenly stopped there, one day before Peary's April 21 purported "farthest". The original of the April 1906 record is the only missing diary of Peary's exploration career. [20] He claimed the next day to have achieved a Farthest North world record at 87°06' and returned to 86°30' without camping. This implied a trip of at least 72 nautical miles (133 km 83 mi) between sleeping, even assuming direct travel with no detours.

After returning to Roosevelt in May, Peary began weeks of difficult travel in June heading west along the shore of Ellesmere. He discovered Cape Colgate, from whose summit he claimed in his 1907 book [21] that he had seen a previously undiscovered far-north "Crocker Land" to the northwest on June 24, 1906. A later review of his diary for this time and place found that he had written, "No land visible." [22] On December 15, 1906, the National Geographic Society of the United States, which was primarily known for publishing a popular magazine, certified Peary's 1905–1906 expedition and "Farthest" with its highest honor, the Hubbard Medal. No major professional geographical society followed suit. In 1914 Donald MacMillan and Fitzhugh Green's expedition found that Crocker Land did not exist.

For his final assault on the pole, Peary and 23 men, including Ross Gilmore Marvin, set off from New York City on July 6, 1908, aboard the Roosevelt, commanded by Robert Bartlett. They wintered near Cape Sheridan on Ellesmere Island, and from Ellesmere departed for the pole on February 28, 1909. The last support party was turned back from Bartlett Camp on April 1, in a latitude no greater than 87° 45' N. The figure is based upon Bartlett's slight miscomputation of the distance of a single Sumner line from the pole. [ citation needed ]

On the final stage of the journey toward the North Pole, Peary told Bartlett to stay behind. He continued with five assistants, Matthew Henson, Ootah, Egigingwah, Seegloo, and Ooqueah. None but Henson (who had served as navigator and craftsman on Peary's 1891-2 expedition) was capable of making navigation observations. On April 6, Peary established Camp Jesup within 3 mi (5 km) of the pole, according to his own readings. [23] Henson scouted ahead to what was thought to be the North Pole site he returned with the greeting, "I think I'm the first man to sit on top of the world," much to Peary's chagrin. [24]

Peary was unable to fully enjoy the fruits of his labors. Upon returning to civilization, he learned that Dr. Frederick A. Cook, a surgeon on the 1891–1892 Peary expedition, claimed to have reached the pole in 1908. [9] Despite remaining doubts, a committee of the National Geographic Society, as well as the Naval Affairs Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, credited Peary with reaching the North Pole. [25]

A reassessment of Peary's notebook in 1988 by polar explorer Wally Herbert found it "lacking in essential data", thus renewing doubts about Peary's discovery. [26] [27]

Peary was promoted to the rank of captain in the Navy on October 20, 1910. [28] By his lobbying, [29] Peary headed off a move among some U.S. Congressmen to have his claim to the pole evaluated by other explorers. Eventually recognized by Congress for "reaching" the pole, Peary was given the Thanks of Congress by a special act on March 4, 1911. [30] By the same Act of Congress, Peary was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, retroactive to April 6, 1909. He retired from the Navy the same day, to Eagle Island on the coast of Maine, in the town of Harpswell. [31] His home there has been designated a Maine State Historic Site.

After his retirement, Peary received many honors from numerous scientific societies in Europe and America for his Arctic explorations and discoveries. He served twice as president of The Explorers Club, from 1909 to 1911, and 1913 to 1916.

In early 1916, Peary became chairman of the National Aerial Coast Patrol Commission, a private organization created by the Aero Club of America. It advocated the use of aircraft to detect warships and submarines off the U.S. coast. [32] Peary used his celebrity to promote the use of military and naval aviation, which led directly to the formation of Naval Reserve aerial coastal patrol units during the First World War. At the close of the First World War, Peary proposed a system of eight airmail routes, which became the genesis of the U.S. Postal Service's airmail system. [33]

Peary died in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1920. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [34] More than 60 years later, Matthew Henson was honored by being re-interred nearby on April 6, 1988. [35]

On August 11, 1888, Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, a business school valedictorian who thought the modern woman should be more than just a mother. Diebitsch had started working at the Smithsonian Institution when she was 19–20 years old, replacing her father after he became ill and filling his position as a linguist. She resigned from the Smithsonian in 1886 upon becoming engaged to Peary.

The newlyweds honeymooned in Atlantic City, New Jersey, then moved to Philadelphia because Peary was assigned there. Peary's mother accompanied them on their honeymoon, and she moved into their Philadelphia apartment but not without friction between the two women. Josephine told Peary that his mother should return to live in Maine. [36]

They had two children together, Marie Ahnighito and Robert Peary, Jr. His daughter wrote several books, including a children's book about the Arctic adventures. [37] As an explorer, Peary was frequently gone for years at a time. In their first 23 years of marriage, he spent only three with his wife and family.

Peary and his aide Henson both had relationships with Inuit women outside of marriage and fathered children with them. [38] Peary appears to have started a relationship with Aleqasina (Alakahsingwah) when she was about 14 years old. [39] [40] She bore him at least two children, including a son called Kaala, [40] Karree, [41] or Kali. [42] French explorer and ethnologist Jean Malaurie was the first to report on Peary's descendants after spending a year in Greenland in 1951–52. [40]

S. Allen Counter, a Harvard neuroscience professor, interested in Henson's role in the Arctic expeditions, went to Greenland in 1986. He found Peary's son Kali and Henson's son Anaukaq, then octogenarians, and some of their descendants. [42] Counter arranged to bring the men and their families to the United States to meet their American relatives and see their fathers' gravesites. [42] Later, Counter wrote about the episode in his book, North Pole Legacy: Black, White, and Eskimo (1991). He also gained national recognition of Henson's role in the expeditions. [42] A subsequent documentary by the same name was also released. Wally Herbert also noted the relationship and children in his book on Peary's 1909 expedition, published in 1989. [43]

Peary has received criticism for his treatment of the Inuit, not only for fathering children with Aleqasina, but especially for bringing back a small group to the United States along with the Cape York meteorite (which was of significant local importance and Peary sold for $40,000 in 1897). [44]

Working at the American Museum of Natural History, the anthropologist Franz Boas had requested that Peary bring back an Inuit for study. [45] [46] [47] During his expedition to retrieve the Cape York meteorite, Peary convinced six individuals, including a man named Qisuk and his child Minik, to travel to America with him by promising they would be able to return with tools, weapons and gifts within the year. [48] Peary left the people at the museum when he returned with the Cape York meteorite in 1897, where they were kept in damp, humid conditions unlike their homeland. Subsequently, four died of tuberculosis within a few months, their remains were dissected and the bones of Qisuk were put on display after Minik was shown a fake burial. [47] [46]

Speaking as a teenager to the San Francisco Examiner about Peary, Minik said:

At the start, Peary was kind enough to my people. He made them presents of ornaments, a few knives and guns for hunting and wood to build sledges. But as soon as he was ready to start home his other work began. Before our eyes he packed up the bones of our dead friends and ancestors. To the women’s crying and the men’s questioning he answered that he was taking our dead friends to a warm and pleasant land to bury them. Our sole supply of flint for lighting and iron for hunting and cooking implements was furnished by a huge meteorite. This Peary put aboard his steamer and took from my poor people, who needed it so much. After this he coaxed my father and that brave man Natooka, who were the strongest hunters and the wisest heads for our tribe, to go with him to America. Our people were afraid to let them go, but Peary promised them that they should have Natooka and my father back within a year, and that with them would come a great stock of guns and ammunition, and wood and metal and presents for the women and children … We were crowded into the hold of the vessel and treated like dogs. Peary seldom came near us. [48]

Peary eventually helped Minik travel home in 1909, though it is speculated that this was to avoid any bad press surrounding his anticipated celebratory return after reaching the North Pole. [47]

Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole has long been subject to doubt. [26] [49] [25] Some polar historians believe that Peary honestly thought he had reached the pole. Others have suggested that he was guilty of deliberately exaggerating his accomplishments. Peary's account has been newly criticized by Pierre Berton (2001) and Bruce Henderson (2005).

Lack of independent validation Edit

Peary did not submit his evidence for review to neutral national or international parties or to other explorers. [25] Peary's claim was certified by the National Geographic Society (NGS) in 1909 after a cursory examination of Peary's records, as NGS was a major sponsor of his expedition. [25] This was a few weeks before Cook's Pole claim was rejected by a Danish panel of explorers and navigational experts.

The National Geographic Society limited access to Peary's records. At the time, his proofs were not made available for scrutiny by other professionals, as had been done by the Danish panel. [25] Gilbert Grosvenor persuaded the National Academy of Sciences not to get involved. The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) of London gave Peary its gold medal in 1910, [50] despite internal council splits which only became known in the 1970s. The RGS based their decision on the belief that the NGS had performed a serious scrutiny of the "proofs", which was not the case. [ citation needed ] Neither the American Geographical Society nor any of the geographical societies of semi-Arctic Scandinavia has recognized Peary's North Pole claim.

Criticisms Edit

Omissions in navigational documentation Edit

The party that accompanied Peary on the final stage of the journey did not include anyone trained in navigation who could either confirm or contradict Peary's own navigational work. This was further exacerbated by Peary's failure to produce records of observed data for steering, for the direction ("variation") of the compass, for his longitudinal position at any time, or for zeroing-in on the pole either latitudinally or transversely beyond Bartlett Camp. [51]

Inconsistent speeds Edit

The last five marches when Peary was accompanied by a navigator (Capt. Bob Bartlett) averaged no better than 13 mi (21 km) marching north. But once the last support party turned back at "Camp Bartlett", where Bartlett was ordered southward, at least 133 nmi (246 km 153 mi) from the pole, Peary's claimed speeds immediately doubled for the five marches to Camp Jesup. The recorded speeds quadrupled during the two and a half-day return to Camp Bartlett – at which point his speed slowed drastically. Peary's account of a beeline journey to the pole and back—which would have assisted his claim of such speed—is contradicted by his companion Henson's account of tortured detours to avoid "pressure ridges" (ice floes' rough edges, often a few meters high) and "leads" (open water between those floes).

In his official report, Peary claimed to have traveled a total of 304 nautical miles between April 2, 1909, (when he left Bartlett's last camp) and April 9 (when he returned there), 133 nmi (246 km 153 mi) to the pole, the same distance back, and 38 nmi (70 km 44 mi) in the vicinity of the pole. [ citation needed ] These distances are counted without detours due to drift, leads and difficult ice, i.e. the distance traveled must have been significantly higher to make good the distance claimed. [ citation needed ] Peary and his party arrived back in Cape Columbia on the morning of April 23, 1909, only about two and a half days after Capt Bartlett, yet Peary claimed he had traveled a minimum of 304 nmi (563 km 350 mi) more than Bartlett (to the Pole and vicinity). [ citation needed ]

The conflicting and unverified claims of Cook and Peary prompted Roald Amundsen to take extensive precautions in navigation during his Antarctic expedition so as to leave no room for doubt concerning his 1911 attainment of the South Pole, which—like Robert Falcon Scott's a month later in 1912—was supported by the sextant, theodolite, and compass observations of several other navigators.

Review of Peary's diary Edit

The diary that Robert E. Peary kept on his 1909 polar expedition was finally made available for research in 1986. Historian Larry Schweikart examined it, finding that: the writing was consistent throughout (giving no evidence of post-expedition alteration), that there were consistent pemmican and other stains on all pages, and that all evidence was consistent with a conclusion that Peary's observations were made on the spot he claimed. Schweikart compared the reports and experiences of Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura, who reached the North Pole alone in 1978, to those of Peary and found they were consistent. [52] However, Peary made no entries in the diary on the crucial days of April 6 and 7, 1909, and his famous words "The Pole at Last!", allegedly written in his diary at the pole, were written on loose slips of paper that were inserted into the diary.

1984 and 1989 National Geographic Society studies Edit

In 1984 the National Geographic Society (a major sponsor of Peary's expeditions) commissioned the Arctic explorer Wally Herbert to write an assessment of Peary's original 1909 diary and astronomical observations. As Herbert researched the material, he came to believe that Peary must have falsified his records and concluded that he did not reach the Pole. [26] His book, The Noose of Laurels, caused a furor when it was published in 1989. If Peary did not reach the pole in 1909, Herbert himself would claim the record of being the first to reach the pole on foot. [43]

In 1989 the NGS also conducted a two-dimensional photogrammetric analysis of the shadows in photographs and a review of ocean depth measures taken by Peary its staff concluded that he was no more than 5 mi (8 km) away from the pole. Peary's original camera (a 1908 #4 Folding Pocket Kodak) has not survived. As such cameras were made with at least six different lenses from various manufacturers, the focal length of the lens—and hence the shadow analysis based on it—must be considered uncertain at best. [ citation needed ] The NGS has never released Peary's photos for an independent analysis. Specialists questioned the Society's conclusions. [53] [27]

The NGS commissioned the Foundation for the Promotion of the Art of Navigation to resolve the issue. Their 1989 report concluded that Peary had indeed reached the Pole. Gilbert M. Grosvenor, president of the NGS, said, "I consider this the end of a historic controversy and the confirmation of due justice to a great explorer." [54]

Review of depth soundings Edit

Supporters of Peary and Henson assert that the depth soundings they made on the outward journey have been matched by recent surveys, and so their claim of having reached the Pole is confirmed. [55] Only the first few of the Peary party's soundings, taken nearest the shore, touched bottom experts have said their usefulness is limited to showing that he was above deep water. [ citation needed ] [56] Peary stated (in 1909 Congressional hearings about the expedition) that he made no longitudinal observations during his trip, only latitude observations, yet he maintained he stayed on the "Columbia meridian" all along, and that his soundings were made on this meridian. [ citation needed ] The pack ice was moving all the time, so he had no way of knowing where he was without longitudinal observations. [ citation needed ]

Recreation of expedition in 2005 Edit

British explorer Tom Avery and four companions recreated the outward portion of Peary's journey in 2005, using replica wooden sleds and Canadian Eskimo Dog teams. They ensured their sled weights were the same as Peary's sleds throughout their journey. They reached the North Pole in 36 days, 22 hours—nearly five hours faster than Peary. [57] Avery writes on his web site that:

The admiration and respect which I hold for Robert Peary, Matthew Henson and the four Inuit men who ventured North in 1909, has grown enormously since we set out from Cape Columbia. Having now seen for myself how he traveled across the pack ice, I am more convinced than ever that Peary did indeed discover the North Pole." [58]

After reaching the Pole, Avery and his team were airlifted off the ice rather than returning by dogsled.

Analysis of the speeds made by Avery do more to cast doubt on Peary's claim than to confirm it. [ citation needed ] While Peary claimed 130 nmi (240 km 150 mi) made good in his last five marches, horrific ice conditions meant that Avery managed only 71 nmi (131 km 82 mi) [ which? ] in his last five marches. Avery never exceeded 90 nmi (170 km 100 mi) in any five-day stretch, and was losing over 7 mi (11 km) a day at this time to the southerly drift of the ice. [ citation needed ] Avery matched Peary's overall 37-day total in part because Peary was held up by open water for five days at the Big Lead. But Peary had a team consisting of 133 dogs and 25 men, meaning he was able to keep his "polar party" fresh for the sprint to the Pole. Peary's team was more experienced than Avery's at dog sledding. [ citation needed ]

Several United States Navy ships have been named USS Robert E. Peary. The Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College is named for Peary and fellow Arctic explorer Donald B. MacMillan. In 1986, the United States Postal Service issued a 22-cent postage stamp in honor of Peary and Henson [59] they were previously honored in 1959. [60]

Peary Land, Peary Glacier, Peary Nunatak and Cape Peary in Greenland, Peary Bay and Peary Channel in Canada, as well as Mount Peary in Antarctica, are named in his honor. The lunar crater Peary, appropriately located at the moon's north pole, is also named after him. [61]

Camp Peary in York County, Virginia is named for Admiral Peary. Originally established as a Navy Seabee training center during World War II, it was repurposed in the 1950s as a Central Intelligence Agency training facility. It is commonly called "The Farm".

Admiral Peary Vocational Technical School, located in a neighboring community very close to his birthplace of Cresson, PA, was named for him and was opened in 1972. Today the school educates over 600 students each year in numerous technical education disciplines.

Major General Adolphus Greely, leader of the ill-fated Lady Franklin Bay Expedition from 1881 to 1884, noted that no Arctic expert questioned that Peary courageously risked his life traveling hundreds of miles from land, and that he reached regions adjacent to the pole. After initial acceptance of Peary's claim, he later came to doubt Peary's having reached 90°.

In his book Ninety Degrees North, polar historian Fergus Fleming describes Peary as "undoubtedly the most driven, possibly the most successful and probably the most unpleasant man in the annals of polar exploration". [ This quote needs a citation ]

In 1932, an expedition was made by Robert Bartlett and Peary's daughter, Marie Ahnighito Peary Stafford on the Effie M. Morrissey to erect a monument to Peary at Cape York, Greenland. [62]


Longtime U Chemist Robert W. Parry Dies

December 7, 2006 -- Robert W. Parry, a University of Utah chemist for three decades, died Dec. 1 after having suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving Day.

Reprinted below are two obituaries. The first was a paid obituary published Dec. 3 in the Salt Lake Tribune. The second was written for the American Chemical Society by Peter Stang, distinguished professor of chemistry and dean of the University of Utah College of Science.

NEWSPAPER OBITUARY: Robert Walter Parry, Oct. 1, 1917 - Dec. 1, 2006

Robert W. Parry, 89, passed away December 1, 2006 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was born October 1, 1917 in Ogden, Utah to Jeanette (Petterson) and Walter Parry. He graduated from Utah State Agricultural College in 1940, receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He received a master's degree from Cornell University in 1942, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1946.

He married Marjorie Joyce Nelson July 6, 1945. They had two children, Robert Bryce Parry and Mark Nelson Parry.

Robert Parry was a professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan from 1946 to 1969. In 1969, he came to the University of Utah as a distinguished professor of chemistry, and he served in this capacity until 1997. From 1997 until his death, he was professor emeritus at the University of Utah.

He was an extraordinary teacher, teaching chemistry to thousands of undergraduate students. In 1970 he co-authored a high school chemistry text, "Chemistry Experimental Foundations,” which was widely used throughout the United States.

In 1972, he received the Manufacturing Chemists Award for College Teaching. He was also an excellent research scientist, directing research groups at both Michigan and Utah. His graduate students serve on chemistry faculties at universities throughout the country.

In 1980, he received a Senior United States Scientist Alexander Von Humbolt-Stiftung Award, taking him to West Germany for a year. In 1987, he received the first Governor's Medal in Science from the State of Utah.
His unique gift, however, was his ability to interact with people. He was a husband, father, teacher, consultant, and colleague.

Robert Parry was extremely active in the American Chemical Society. He served as its president-elect in 1981 and president in 1982. He was a member of the council of the American Chemical Society more than 45 years. He served on the board of directors of the American Chemical Society from 1973 through1983. From 1969 through 1980, he was a member of the board of editors of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He was the founding editor of Inorganic Chemistry from 1960 through 1963.

He was chairman of the board of trustees of the Gordon Research Conference during 1967-1968.

In 1993, Robert Parry received the Priestley Medal, the highest honor given by the American Chemical Society, for lifetime achievement in chemistry. He received the Distinguished Service to Inorganic Chemistry Award in 1965, the Distinguished Service to Chemical Education Award in 1977, and the Utah Award for Service to Chemical Education in 1978. He received honorary doctor of science degrees from Utah State University (1985) and the University of Utah (1997).

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marj two sons, Bryce and Mark and his grandchildren, Russell, Marelle, Lauren, Kristie and Robert. He is predeceased by his parents two brothers, Dean and Edward and sister, Jeanette.

A memorial service will be held 3 p.m. at the Evans & Early Mortuary, 574 East 100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the University of Utah Women's Club Scholarship Fund would be appreciated.

Robert W. Parry, 89, distinguished professor of chemistry, emeritus, died on Dec. 1, 2006, from a stroke suffered on Thanksgiving Day.

Born in Ogden, Utah, Bob grew up in Utah and graduated with a B.S. in soil chemistry in 1940 from Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University). He received a master's degree from Cornell University (also in soil chemistry) in 1942 and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry under John C. Bailar, Jr. from the University of Illinois in 1946.

Later that year, Bob joined the chemistry department at the University of Michigan, where he became a leader in inorganic chemistry. In 1969, he joined the faculty at the University of Utah as a distinguished professor of chemistry, and remained at Utah until his retirement in 1997, when he became an emeritus professor. Together with Henry Eyring and Cheves Walling, Parry played a key role in the growth and development of chemistry at Utah.

His 60-year career combined excellence in education, research, service and advancement of the profession. Both at Michigan and Utah, Bob taught chemistry to thousands of undergraduates and he mentored over 60 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are now leaders in both academia and industry.
He authored or co-authored 150 scientific publications in the areas of boron and main group chemistry and he was widely recognized as a pre-eminent boron chemist. At Michigan, he served as the first chairman of the Honors Program in Science and was a senior author of the High School Chem Study Prentice-Hall writing team. Together with Henry Taube, Bob was editor for “Foundations of General Chemistry,” a paperback series by Prentice-Hall Publishers.

Parry was founding editor (1962-64) of Inorganic Chemistry, the premier journal in inorganic chemistry, and served on its editorial board from 1962 until 1979. He was president of Inorganic Synthesis, Inc. (1969-1972) and served as an associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (1966-1968, 1971-1980).
Bob was very active in the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. He served on the executive committee of the ACS inorganic division, chairing this committee in 1965. He was an ACS councilor for over 40 years, a member of the ACS Board of Directors (1973-1983), and in 1982 served as President of the ACS.

In addition to his extensive activities within ACS, for over 20 years Bob was also active in various other organizations related to chemistry. He was a member of the board of trustees for the Gordon Research Conferences (1965-1972), including chair of the board of trustees in 1968.

Between 1980 and 1995, he served as executive secretary, chair and councilor of the chemistry section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Between 1965 and 1982, Bob served in several capacities in International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

For his extraordinary accomplishments as an educator and his research distinctions, as well as his lifelong service to the profession of chemistry, Parry received numerous awards and honors. These include the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry (1965) Manufacturing Chemists Award for Excellence in the Teaching of College Chemistry (1972) ACS Award in Chemical Education (1977) Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award (1980, 1983) the first Governor’s Medal in Science and Technology, State of Utah (1987) honorary doctor's degrees from Utah State University (1985) and the University of Utah (1997). These recognitions culminated in his receipt of the ACS Priestley Medal (1993), the highest honor bestowed by the ACS.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marjorie two sons, Bryce and Mark and his grandchildren Russell, Marelle, Lauren, Kristie and Robert.


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