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Robert Parry- Fooling America Speech 1993

Robert Parry- Fooling America Speech 1993

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Published by Chad B Harper
Fooling America: A talk by Robert Parry
Given in Santa Monica on March 28, 1993
Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra story and uncovered Oliver North's involvement in it as a Washington-based correspondent for Newsweek.

- I came out of AP which is kind of a working class/working man's kind of news organization so I wasn't used to this. And we had as our guest that evening Brent Scowcroft, who had been on the Tower Board, and Dick Cheney, who was then - who was going to be the ranking minority figure on the house Iran-Contra Committee, and we're going through this little delightful dinner, and at one point Brent Scowcroft says, he says "Well, I probably shouldn't be saying this, but if I were advising Admirable Poindexter, and he HAD told the President about the diversion, I'd advise him to say that he hadn't." And being new to this whole, sort of game, I stopped eating, and looked across the table and said "General! You're not suggesting that the Admiral should commit perjury, are you?" And there was kind of like an embarrassed little silence at the table, and the editor of Newsweek, who was sitting next to me, says - I HOPE partly jokingly but I don't know - he says, "Sometimes we have to do what's good for the country."
Fooling America: A talk by Robert Parry
Given in Santa Monica on March 28, 1993
Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra story and uncovered Oliver North's involvement in it as a Washington-based correspondent for Newsweek.

- I came out of AP which is kind of a working class/working man's kind of news organization so I wasn't used to this. And we had as our guest that evening Brent Scowcroft, who had been on the Tower Board, and Dick Cheney, who was then - who was going to be the ranking minority figure on the house Iran-Contra Committee, and we're going through this little delightful dinner, and at one point Brent Scowcroft says, he says "Well, I probably shouldn't be saying this, but if I were advising Admirable Poindexter, and he HAD told the President about the diversion, I'd advise him to say that he hadn't." And being new to this whole, sort of game, I stopped eating, and looked across the table and said "General! You're not suggesting that the Admiral should commit perjury, are you?" And there was kind of like an embarrassed little silence at the table, and the editor of Newsweek, who was sitting next to me, says - I HOPE partly jokingly but I don't know - he says, "Sometimes we have to do what's good for the country."

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Published by: Chad B Harper on Mar 28, 2013
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12/04/2013

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“We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know andshouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets andwhen the press can decide whether to print what it knows. “
--1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham at CIA Headquarters
Fooling America: A talk by Robert Parry
Given in Santa Monica on March 28, 1993
 
Special thanks to Lisa Pease(transcription) and Garby Leon (submission).
 Well thank you for coming out tonight. I do want to first thank FAIR(Fairness & Accuracy InReporting) for inviting me . It's always a pleasure to leave Washington and come to the WestCoast.It's a fascinating aspect of how Washington and Los Angeles interrelate these days. I'm not surewhich city is more used to producing fantasy than the other, but I always think that LA's fantasyis often more entertaining.But there is this tremendous sense of both envy and concern between Washington and LA, butWashington will often look down at Los Angeles as a place that produces movies, sometimeslike JFK, movies that were very upsetting to the Washington establishment because theysuggested that there was a cover-up of the murder of the President back in the 1960s.But you also find that people in Washington are incredibly attuned to what's happening out here.I was talking to a journalist friend of mine the other day who was saying that there was, for SpikeLee's latest movie, she saw Vice President Quayle in the line waiting to get into the movie, buthe thought it was a Roman spectacular, Malcolm 10. And then someone else said they sawClarence Thomas waiting to get in, but he thought it was an X-rated film. So Washington is aplace that does keep track of what is happening out here. Of course, I'm not sure that LosAngeles could produce entertaining shows like the McLaughlin Group, but it does do it's best.Tonight I'd like to talk about what I was doing in the 1980's. I was a reporter for the AssociatedPress. I started with the AP back in 1974, and worked briefly in Baltimore and then inProvidence, Rhode Island, where I covered some of the problems of the Democratic powerstructure there - Freddy St. Germaine was of course involved with the banks in a very unsavoryway. And eventually I was brought to Washington for the AP back in 1977 and covered theCarter administration. And I was examining some of their, what seem like today rather minorscandals, things like the General Services Administration, the waste and fraud that was going onthere. And in 1980, after the election, I was assigned to go work on the Special Assignment teamfor the Associated Press which was there investigative unit.
 
In history, AP's investigative team was actually quite impressive. Sy Hersh had been there, anumber of important stories had been broken out of that investigative unit, which at one time wasten, fifteen, twenty people. By the time I was there it had shrunk to about four. I was assigned todo investigations. Other people were doing things like columns about the State Department orabout politics, and I was really the only investigative reporter so designated at the AP'sWashington Bureau at that time.But no one told me what to work on. And it struck me one day, as I was sitting around, that thisadministration had a thing about Central America. At the time there had been a number of atrocities that were occurring, and the four American churchwomen had been killed. And theexplanations coming from this transition team were quite remarkable. If you remember, JeanKirkpatrick suggested in one interview that these weren't really nuns, they were more politicalactivists, which always struck me as an amazing suggestion that it's okay to kill politicalactivists. Anyway, it seemed like a very important area to them, one that might end up drivingmuch of what they did, at least in terms of foreign policy and national security issues.So I began working on it. And that experience, in a way, shaped what I did for the rest of mytime at the AP. And it was also striking to me that that experience was beyond anything I couldhave imagine, as an American citizen, watching. It was a case of wide- spread killing - politicalkilling - of dissidents, torture, in the case of women often rape was involved; and thisgovernment was not just supporting it, not just providing the weapons and the military support,but trying to excuse it, rationalize it and essentially hide it.Which is where I sort of came in and I think many people in the American press corps inWashington came in, and the press corp in Central America. At the time the press corps was stillthe Watergate press corp, if you will. We were fairly aggressive, we were not inclined to believewhat we heard from the government, and sometimes we were probably obnoxious. But we weredoing our jobs as I think, more or less, as they were supposed to be done. That is - to act, whennecessary, in an adversarial way.So when we began covering this topic in early 1981, we had some very brave people in the fieldin El Salvador particularly and throughout Central America, and some of them risked their livesto cover that story. And those of us back in Washington who obviously were not facing that kindof risk, were trying to get at things. Initially, and maybe we all sort of forget this, but I rememberone of my first stories about this had to do with how the State Department was counting up thedead in El Salvador and who they were blaming. At that time the position was that the guerrillaswere killing more than half of the people dying in the political violence and that the governmentwas less responsible.So I went over to the State Department to review their methodology, and what I found was thatthe way they got their figures was that they took the total number of people who had presumablydied within a period of a month or so, and then each time the guerrillas would claim on a radiobroadcast that they had killed some soldiers, if there was a battle going on and they said "Wekilled ten soldiers" and then the battle kept going on and it was twenty, and then it was fifty, andthen another one of their stations would say fifty, what the State Department did was they addedup all the numbers. And so they were able to create these false figures to suggest that the
 
government that the Unites States was supporting was not as culpable as the human rights groupsand particularly the Catholic church in ES were saying.It began a pattern of deception from the very beginning. Even when there was something horriblehappening in those countries. Even when hundreds, thousands of human beings were being takenout and killed, the role of the US. government became to hide it, to rationalize it, to pretend itwasn't that serious, and to try to discredit anyone who said otherwise. And the main targets of that were the reporters in the field, the human rights groups, and to a degree, those of us inWashington who were trying to examine the policies to figure out what was really happening andwhat was behind this. I remember again after the new administration came in and of courseSecretary Haig made the remarkable comment that the four churchwomen were perhaps runninga road block, which is how they'd gotten killed. And even people in the State Department who atthat time were investigating this fairly honestly - they had not yet been purged - were shockedthat the Secretary would say such a thing because they knew what the circumstances were eventhen. They knew that they'd been stopped, they knew that they'd been sexually assaulted, andshot at close range. None of that, of course, fit the image of running a road block, and exchangeof fire.But the reality became the greatest threat, even at that stage, to what the new administrationwanted to accomplish, and what they wanted to accomplish was I think something they feltstrongly about ideologically which was their view that the communists were on the march, thatthe Soviets were an expanding power, that you had to stop every left wing movement in its tracksand reverse it. And they were following of course the theory that Jean Kirkpatrick had devisedthat the totalitarian states never reverse and change into democratic states, only authoritarianones do, which as we know now is perhaps one of THE most inaccurate political theories. It'sbest if you're having a political theory, not to have it disproven so quickly, you know it might bebest if you would, maybe fifty years from now you wouldn't really know as much. But JeanKirkpatricks's was disproven very quickly but it was still the driving force behind theadministration's approach to a number of these conflicts, and their justifications for going aheadand trying to conduct what became known later as the Reagan Doctrine which was to sponsorrevolutionary operations or what am I saying, counterrevolutionary operations in many cases invarious parts of the world and in the Third World in particular.In ES of course, which was my first focus and the first focus of this policy, it was to protect avery brutal government which was at that time killing literally from a thousand to two thousandpeople a month. These were political murders; they were done in the most offensive fashion. Ithink any American, any average American, would have been shocked and would have opposedwhat his government was doing. So it became very important to keep that secret, or to minimizeit, or rationalize it or somehow sanitize it.So what we saw, even at that early stage, was the combat that was developing and the combat interms of the domestic situation in Washington was how do you stop the press from telling thatstory. And much of what the Reagan administration developed were techniques to keep thosekinds of stories out of the news media.

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