Bush in Check

Bush in Check


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Mrs. Sheehan claims the right, as an American to ask her President to explain

to her why she should feel proud to have sacrificed her son

to the war against the Iraqi people?



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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Bush in Check

By John Maxwell


In chess, the King is the most important piece but, at the same time, the weakest. All other pieces can move more than one square at a time; even the lowly  pawns at their first move, can move two squares. And even a pawn can place a King in Check.

The king is the centre of power and he must be protected at all cost. He cannot be captured but if he is ever threatened with imminent capture –if he is in ‘check’–  his handler must either get him out immediately or be ‘mated’. The game is over.

Watching the antics of Mr Bush’s supporters over the past few days makes it plain that the President’s handlers think he is in check, and, short of nuking Mrs Cindy Sheehan, they don’t seem to have any good idea how to  prevent checkmate and  Presidential meltdown.

Mrs. Sheehan claims the right, as an American to ask her President to explain to her why she should feel proud to have sacrificed her son to the war against the Iraqi people?

This week, Cindy Sheehan went back to California to arrange care for her mother who has had a stroke. No one has blamed her  mother’s stroke on the Republicans, but it must have been difficult for any mother to endure  the traducing and sliming of her daughter that Mrs Sheehan’s mother has had to bear. The basic Republican reflex under attack is the Hagfish defence – to generate so much slime that your opponent needs to spend an inordinate amount of time, effort and money to clean himself up. Cindy Sheehan, unlike Senator Kerry,  Governor Dean and President Clinton has ignored the hagfish and avoided entangling herself in the slime.

Her critics accuse her of betraying America, dishonouring her son, dishonouring the soldiers in Iraq, everything except cannibalism but that, as in the case of Haiti’s President Aristide, is no doubt on the cards.

Mrs Sheehan has stayed ‘on message’ as the Americans say. She long ago made up her mind about what she wanted and she has not shifted her vision.

Why, she wants the President to explain, is dying in Iraq a ‘noble cause’ when neither ordinary Americans nor ordinary Iraqis are benefiting from the wholesale slaughter now in progress? Why does it seem that the war is being fought to enrich people who can have no possible need for more wealth? Why is it noble to shed blood so that oil companies can make greater profits?

“I don’t believe dying in a war of aggression on a country that’s no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause.”

In her quest, Mrs Sheehan is a surrogate for the journalistic profession of the United States, which overwhelmingly acted as Judas Goats leading Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein instigated the horrors of September 11, 2001, and conned and gulled them into believing the other nonsensical claims: that Iraq was armed to the teeth with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and just itching to let them loose on the United States and Israel.

Even now there is afoot a public relations campaign to make a heroine and martyr out of one of the most dangerous propagandists for the war – a New York Times newsroom employee named Judith Miller. Long after everyone else either knew or suspected that the authorised version of the casus belli was a gross fabrication  fashioned to deceive, mislead and entrap millions of people into endorsing an unnecessary war, Judith Miller was pumping out stories about WMD, justifying  the spilling of innocent blood and the degradation, starvation and torture, rape and murder  of people who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The war converted large areas of the Middle East into hotbeds of terrorism, damaged and abrogated the civil rights of millions, particularly Iraqi women, and has generally made the world a much less safe place than it was before the war began. Yet Mrs Miller goes to jail  (WHY?) to still defend its authors.

For all this the American press/media is largely to blame and head and shoulders among those miscreants is Judith Miller. She has gone to jail because she insists that she has a right to protect a ‘confidential’  informant whose malicious purpose was to discredit a loyal, truthful US citizen, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, by endangering the life and ending the career of his wife, an undercover CIA agent. If that is heroism, give me treason any time.

Counterposed to this official martyr and heroine is the stubborn housewife from Cowtown Vacaville –California whose husband is in the process of divorcing her because of all the attention she has brought to herself and her family.

In an ideal world of course, we would not need the Cindy Sheehans if the Judith Millers were doing their jobs. As a journalist it is my duty and responsibility to protect the public interest and to defend it against all those who would subvert the public good for private aggrandisement of whatever description. One cannot be neutral; a journalist does not shed his responsibilities as a citizen when he walks through the newsroom door.

In my view, journalists are the immune system of the body politic – an analogy I have used so often that some people may be tired of hearing it. I make no apologies for repeating it, because it is true and because most of us who say we are journalists forget what we are supposed to be about.

It would be nice to be well off, to be able to take a holiday whenever one felt like it, to buy a new computer or a new car whenever one fancied. But the real deal, the compact we have made with the public is that we are agents of the public, we are delegates of the people, exercising on their behalf, and only on their behalf, the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are supposedly represented by a free press.

We have no privilege to deceive the public. Our legislatures can pass any number of laws protecting journalists from the ravages of their ethics and their consciences, but however shielded we are, we ought to know where  our duty lies and to be willing either to do it or to get out of the profession.

Some of us have become millionaires because of a mellifluous voice or a lucky break. After a while, the millionaires cease to be working journalists in any real sense of the word. They become habitués of the corridors of power, too cosy with their more powerful subjects and further and further away from the people whose rights they are supposed to be defending. Their view of the public interest becomes intermeshed and confused with the views of their new class and of their employers and their interests.

Dan Rather, one of the few US ‘anchors with real  claim to being a real journalist, admitted to a British television audience that  American journalists are hogtied by fear.  After Sept. 11,  2001, he said, news on American television was bound and gagged. Any reporter who stepped out of line, he said, would be professionally lynched as un-American.

“It’s that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions,” Rather told his British audience in June 2002.

“It’s an obscene comparison,” Rather said, “but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around people’s necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced here. You will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck.” No U.S. reporter who values his neck or career will “bore in on the tough questions.”

Back in the USA,  .Rather came to heel; he  told his TV audience: “George Bush is the President. He makes the decisions. He wants me to line up, just tell me where.”

But not even that stopped them from necklacing Rather last year when he told a truth he could not prove, about the whereabouts of George Bush when that worthy was supposed to be doing his patriotic duty flying aeroplanes for the Texas National Guard. That soft option got him out of going to Vietnam but it wasn’t soft enough for him.

Meanwhile, while Rather was savaged for being inquisitive about George Bush, someone who actually served in combat and was wounded in Vietnam was being savaged apparently for not having the decency to die there rather than come back to haunt George Bush with a record of courage and service which he could not possibly match. The US press was as usual evenhanded: it gave as much publicity to the lies about John Kerry as it gave to the ‘lies’ of Dan Rather. There are good lies and bad lies.

The quaintly named organisation –Accuracy in Media, AIM, is  one of the senior hagfish of the US media scene. One of its more outstanding exploits was in December 2003 when it presented what it called “concrete proof” that Al Qaeda had worked with Saddam Hussein.

An AIM top honcho, Cliff Kincaid breathlessly reported that somebody called Con Coughlin had  ‘revealed the content of an Iraqi intelligence document showing that Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, was trained in Baghdad just a few months before almost 3,000 people were murdered on American soil.”

 “ … While it is very explosive, this only adds to the evidence that has already been accumulated of how Saddam worked with al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers … This is additional evidence of Saddam’s crimes against humanity.” So said Kincaid.

Many of us suspected then what we now know: the only legible documents discovered after the fall of Baghdad and the destruction of its administrative infrastructure were elaborate forgeries linking left wing types to all sorts of conspiracies, wickedness and cash. George Galloway is just one victim of this professionally and governmentally organised fraud against public opinion.

The media swallowed it  totus porcus – whole hog. Dan Rather was attacked as a tool of Saddam for an interview he did in which Saddam spoke what we now know to be the truth.

So, don’t ask what Cindy Sheehan is doing outside Mr Bush’s ranch while he idles away the month of August, as he did just before September 11, 2001. What you need to ask is why the coterie of journalists enjoying Mr Bush’s hospitality are not asking him the question Mrs Sheehan wants answered: what did you mean when you spoke of a ‘noble cause’?

Some of us who opposed the war before it started carried placards saying, among other things:

No Blood for Oil! Remember?

Cindy Sheehan, then as now, a loyal housewife and citizen, didn’t carry any such placard. Then, she became  a paradigm – a Gold Star mother. Now, to some of those  in high places, she is a pariah.

Whatever she is, she has the President of the United States in check. Even pawns can put a king in check – and that, if you think about it, is what democracy, real democracy, is supposed to be about.

Copyright©2005 John Maxwell /

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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update 16 June 2008 




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