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David Corn's Private Idaho

by Alex Constantine Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004 at 6:13 PM

David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, has adopted positions -- based, apparently, on thin air -- that exonerate the Bush administration from involvement in criminal conspiracies and mystify many of his progressive readers.

David Corn

By Alex Constantine

The name is so mnemonic that once you hear it, you can never get it out of your head: "David Corn," the Washington editor for The Nation, that straggling house organ of the American left. Though I, a leftist, may occasionally respect an article appearing in The Nation, it is all too often a disappointment. The magazine is myopic, and one reason for this is the continual recycling of celebrities of the left like David Corn, who make a living by upsetting the apple cart, but not too much. He has an internal limit switch. If he were to write honestly about the John Kennedy assassination, for instance, he would most likely lose the respect of his peers, and probably his job ã therefore, he doesn't write honestly about the John Kennedy assassination.

Instead, he finds "respectable" stories, scoops just below the headlines ... and brushes up against smaller conspiracies routinely, but watches his language, avoids inflammatory words like "fascism," and feigns prof essionalism.

The Nation claims that David Corn "broke news of the Bush-Enron oil deal." "Did George W. Bush once have a financial relationship with Enron?" Corn writes. The year was 1986, and "according to a publicly available record" ã that is, the book First Son, by Bill Minutaglio (so much for "breaking" the story) ã Bush and Enron "drilled for oil together--at a time when Bush was a not-too-successful oil man in Texas and his oil venture was in dire need of help. Bush's business association with Enron, it seems, has not previously been reported." Except in Minutaglio's book. So far, no conspiracy. But Corn is strolling onto the doggy path, and must hold his nose and watch his tongue lest someone notice. "It shows the credibility of the Bush gang and that of Enron deserve questioning when either one is talking about the other." What's this? A conspiracy of silence? (And did Bush or Enron ever have a serious claim to credibility?)

Ironically, David Corn, Noam Chomsky, Marc Cooper and other writers for The Nation frown on anyone who deals in "conspiracies," and often speak condescendingly about these geeky, paranoid mollusks. In fact, there are "conspiracy theorists" on the Internet who probed deeply into Bush's connections to Enron years ago (I have those postings on file, and some are posted in the Usenet newsgroups), but along comes David Corn detailing a conspiracy without actually using the word, and all the while praying to his personal god that no one notices.

To be polite, Corn does a fair imitation of a dissenting writer ã for someone who travels on a State Department visa. On November 9, 2001, Corn boasted in an AlterNet posting that he "had been dispatched to Trinidad by the U.S. State Department to conduct a two-day seminar on investigative reporting for local journalists (your tax dollars at work!)." (Corn, "Why Bush Needs to Spin the War.") Journalists who eschew conflicting with the interests of their readers are not "dispatched" by the State Department, a branch of government that has no use for dissident writers, and in foreign countries has been known to plot their deaths. (And good ones do not spout that cliché about your tax dollars.)

David Corn finds "conspiracy theories" maddening: "Please stop sending me those emails. You know who are. And you know what emails I mean ... Okay, I'll spell it out -- those forwarded emails suggesting, or flat-out stating, the CIA and the U.S. government were somehow involved in the horrific September 11 attacks." There are the ridiculous emails "about a fellow imprisoned in Canada who claims to be a former U.S. intelligence officer and who supposedly passed advance warning of the attack to jail guards in mid-August. There are emails, citing an Italian newspaper, reporting that last July Osama bin Laden was treated for kidney disease at the American hospital in Dubai and met with a CIA official. There are the emails, referring to a book published in France, that note the attacks came a month after Bush Administration officials, who were negotiating an oil deal with the Taliban, told the Afghans 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.'"

The sources irritating Mr. Corn include Le Figaro, the India Times, Wall Street Journal and the BBC. These are "conspiracy theorists?" The articles are, in fact, published by credible news organizations with by-lines and reputations behind them, without exception. Le Figaro HAS, it reports, confirmed that Bin Laden met with a CIA agent name Larry Mitchell two months before the World Trade Center swallowed two domestic jetliners. Still, David Corn is irritated by those "e-mails."

"Such a plot -- to execute the simultaneous destruction of the two towers, a piece of the Pentagon, and four airplanes and make it appear as if it all was done by another party ã is far beyond the skill level of U.S. intelligence," Corn insists. Never mind that the 9/'' plot was allegedly conceived by a former U.S, intelligence asset. And Corn knows the classified agency's precise skill level? Perhaps the CIA is not so skillful, after all, and that's why the foreign press has been blowing the whistle and David Corn keeps receiving those "e-mails."

"Are there enough people of such a bent in all those agencies? That's doubtful," Corn sniffs. "CIA officers and American officials have been evildoers. They have supported death squads and made use of drug dealers overseas." That is, they conspired to kill and drug the country for political ends ã terrorist activity. Some would call this "conspiracy theory." "They have assisted torturers, disseminated assassination manuals, sold weapons to terrorist-friendly governments, undermined democratically-elected governments, and aided dictators who murder and maim. They have covered up reports of massacres and human rights abuses. They have plotted to kill foreign leaders...." David Corn can acknowledge this orgy of fascist violence (all the while avoiding utterance of that word, which would instantly turn him into a paranoid geek who will believe anything) -- some responsible for more deaths than 9/11 -- and still argue, "Would George W. Bush take the chance of being branded the most evil president of all time by countenancing such wrongdoing?" Please. "Oil may be in his blood, but would he place the oil industry's interests ahead of his own?" Excuse my language, but this is a sadistically facile argument. Would Bush place the oil industry's interests ahead of his own? They are symbiotic, it goes without saying, and this corrupt politician with this CIA dad is capable of anything.

The essential problem: "Conspiracy theories may seem more nuisance than problem," a statement contradicted by the public's continuing taste for conspiracy theories at the cinema and on the Internet and everywhere else, "but they do compete with reality for attention." Could it be that they compete with David Corn for attention, and that's why he resents them?

Corn admits he cannot muster an argument to those accursed "e-mails." But in the end, we must depend on "common sense." "The spies and special agents are not good enough, evil enough, or gutsy enough to mount this operation." This is the same organization that dragged the country into Vietnam and pulled a coup in Chile, an immense bloodbath. They couldn't arrange or allow to happen the 9/11 devastation? "That conclusion is based partly on, dare I say it, common sense, but also on years spent covering national security matters. (For a book I wrote on the CIA, I interviewed over 100 CIA officials and employees.)" In the end, it comes down to "common sense" and the faith that Children of the Corn place in his credentials, not a valid debunking.

So how, in a crowded room, are we to distinguish David Corn from any "mainstream" media CIA apologist? Fact is, Corn's writing on the CIA is very tame, old hat, in my opinion, but better than nothing. However, Corn's sense of Black Tuesday is VERY common. He would be well advised to tune out CIA lies and investigate their actions. Don't listen to what they say, watch what they do.

And find an honest line of work.

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