Richard Moore

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Ted Rall
American Reporter Correspondent
Newe York, N.Y.

                   CONSPIRACY LOGIC AND FLIGHT 800:
                  MEAN THEY'RE NOT OUT TO GET YOU
                            by Ted Rall
                  American Reporter Correspondent

        NEW YORK -- Pierre Salinger says that he has an August 22nd Secret
Service report that proves that TWA Flight 800 was shot down accidentally
by the U.S. Navy.
        According to the former Kennedy Administration press secretary,
Navy ships testing missiles off the coast of Eastern Long Island in July
assumed that all flights in the area were flying at 21,000 feet, so they
used 13,000 feet as their test altitude.  Flight 800, however, had taken
off late from JFK Airport, and was flying lower than previously scheduled
in order to avoid another plane.
        Air traffic controllers, in "a tragic error," neglected to advise
the Navy, Salinger said, and a Navy missile blew up the plane.  This
scenario jibes with dozens of calls to the FBI from witnesses who claimed
to have seen a streak of light heading towards the plane just before the
        Salinger acknowledged that the alleged Secret Service memo has
been posted to the Internet for two months, but said he had waited until
the elections to speak out, presumably to protect the incumbent Democratic
president.  "The truth must come out," he told reporters in Cannes,
France, on November 7.
        Not surprisingly, the government has treated the ex-ABC News
correspondent like some bizarre conspiracy theorist. "The United States
military did not shoot a missile at this airplane," New York FBI chief
James Kallstrom scoffed.  National Transportation Safety Board Chairman
Jim Hall attacked Salinger "not only for causing consternation and pain to
families of the victims but also for the fact that a once well-respected
journalist would seize information he now admits was third-hand at best
and try to promote it as some scoop of his."  Clearly, the government was
not pleased about the Salinger bombshell in light of recent efforts to pin
the explosion on mechanical failure.
        Navy mouthpiece Lieutenant Commander Rob Newell responded that the
nearest warship, the USS Normandy, an Aegis-type missile cruiser, was 185
miles south of the crash site.  He said it wasn't testing weapons, and its
radar was set to a maximum range of 130 miles.  The Normandy, Newell says,
"couldn't even see the TWA plane."  Newell said a Navy P-3 Orion
anti-submarine plane was in the area, about 80 miles away, but said it
doesn't carry missiles.  Jane's All The World's Aircraft, a standard
military reference text, states that the P-3 is capable of carrying
        Whether those 230 people were blown out of the air two miles above
the Atlantic Ocean by a terrorist's bomb, a mechanical failure or a
missile gone awry, there's something painfully amusing about the spectacle
of government officials scrambling to deny the "friendly-fire" theory.
Why do Americans persist in believing in outrageous theories about
government crimes, accidents and cover-ups?  Their standard defense is:
We're too nice to do such things.  And if you don't buy that one, try
this:  We're too dumb -- the government is just too disorganized to pull
off a conspiracy.
        The thing is, monstrous government conspiracies are now considered
historical fact.  In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson led Congress into a
mammoth escalation of our involvement in Vietnam after North Vietnam fired
at American ships in the Tonkin Gulf.  More than 50,000 dead soldiers
later, historians of all political stripes accept that the Tonkin Gulf
incident was a fiction, a scam invented by LBJ to get us into the war.
Why assume that today's officials are any different than the ones who lied
to us about that?
        During the late 1960s, the FBI decided to put the radical Black
Panther Party out of business.  At the time, the nation was told that the
Panthers had shot back at agents coming to arrest them and had gotten
killed for their trouble.  A few years later, it came out that the only
shooting had come from the FBI side.  According to autopsies, the black
nationalists had been shot in their beds, sleeping.
        The 1972 election saw political skullduggery assume epic
proportions, as the Nixon Administration sandbagged the man they perceived
as being its most dangerous Democratic opponent, Edmund Muskie.  GOP
operatives phoned New Hampshire primary voters at 3 in the morning, urging
them to vote for Muskie.
        George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, but just to make
sure, Nixon's henchmen broke into his running mate's shrink's office and
leaked his private records to the press, forcing McGovern to choose a new
veep.  If America had any decency whatsoever, McGovern would be allowed
the four-year term he was cheated out of back in 1972, but as things are,
he's long-forgotten.  Nixon, of course, died a statesman, and one wonders
why voting matters in a country with such manufactured elections.
        The American government has admitted to overthrowing the
governments of Argentina, Iran, Panama, Chile and countless other nations.
It tried to kill Fidel Castro with cigar bombs, train Laotian hill-tribe
people to fight the Vietnamese, tapped millions of phones and opened
millions of letters.
        There's never been a satisfactory explanation for the JFK
assassination for the killings of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King or
Malcolm X.  They tested dangerous drugs on prisoners and soldiers without
their consent.  Oliver North testified on national television that the
Reagan-Bush Administration imported cocaine for sale on American streets
to fund illegal weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras.  A secret plant
irradiated the residents of downtown Cincinnati for decades, with tacit
government approval.  Just last week, the Pentagon admitted that it's been
covering up the extent and seriousness of Gulf War Syndrome for the last
five years.
        With that stellar record, it's not exactly shocking that many
blacks think the government invented AIDS as a form of systematic
genocide, or that they buy into the recent San Jose Mercury-News series
accusing the government of dumping narcotics on the inner cities.  Eight
percent of voters supported Ross Perot in the last election; maybe the
Texas billionaire's story about the government's plan to disrupt his
daughter's wedding sounds a little wacky, but it's completely conceivable.
        Trust is fragile.  Every time the government tells people a tax is
temporary and later opts to make it permanent, every time it promises a
public work that doesn't get built and every time some newly-declassified
document proves that our leaders lied about something 15 years ago,
citizens learn that their leaders are both malicious and dishonest.
        Unfortunately, the credibility gap between politicians and the
public they supposedly serve has rarely been more extreme than it is now.
That's half of the reason why, even if Pierre Salinger turns out to be
wrong about TWA Flight 800, Americans are so easily persuaded by
conspiracy theories.
        The other half is that they often turn out to be true.


        (Ted Rall, a syndicated cartoonist and freelance writer based in
New York City, has written for Might magazine, Maximumrocknroll, P.O.V.,
the New York Press and numerous other publications.)

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