America's Dreyfus Affair part 4
[Go to part 6]
|The pen may be stronger than the sword,
But pens, like guns, can be bought,
And battles of words, like battles with guns
Can be unfairly fought1.
Was Captain Alfred Dreyfus sent to Devil’s Island because he was a Jew? In the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, many a person in France took comfort in repeating the clever retort of the German Foreign Minister to the positive assertion of that proposition: “I don’t know about that, but I know that if he hadn’t been Jewish he would not have returned.”2
What a psychologically satisfying statement to people who have been wrong, and have been parties to the infliction of a great wrong and a great injustice upon another individual! How nice it was to be back on the side of truth, and that statement certainly appeared to have a lot of truth in it to a lot of people. We all know how hard it is for governments to admit that they have been wrong, that they have made an error, much less to admit something so bad as to have framed a man for a major crime that he did not commit and to have inflicted upon him what amounted to a lifetime of torture as a consequence. The recent examples in our own country of this reluctance of governments to admit error, from the county to the federal level, are legion, whether it be in the prosecution of obviously innocent day-care workers for imaginary sex crimes or the immolation of men, women, and children practicing an unorthodox religion. In the Dreyfus case, once the error had been made, with so many reputations on the line, it certainly took some powerful force to overturn it, to bring Dreyfus back from Devil’s Island. What force could that be but one even stronger than the nation’s government? In the eyes of many people, that could only be the force of rich international Jewry working in concert?
The explanation directed the focus away from the messy and disturbing facts of the case and allowed those who had now clearly and obviously been wrong all along to say that, in a certain sense, they had really been right all along. The guilt or innocence of Dreyfus, in this view, was really not the important thing. The charge had been made throughout the affair that the whole mess was being stirred up by the powerful and secretive Syndicate, of which Jewish bankers were a major part. What better evidence could there be that they were right than the fact that the (Syndicate-backed) Dreyfusards were able to muster enough power actually to win in the end?
This belief also allowed a substantial segment of the French population to keep their fear and detestation of Jews intact even though Dreyfus turned out not to be the rotten traitor selling secrets to the mortal enemy that they had thought him to be. In point of fact, the episode probably intensified their negative feelings, making eventual widespread collaboration with the conquering Nazis just that much easier.
That hatred springs more from self-contempt than from a legitimate grievance is seen in the intimate connection between hatred and a guilty conscience.
There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice. That others have a just grievance against us is a more potent reason for hating them than that we have a just grievance against them. We do not make people humble and meek when we show them their guilt and cause them to be ashamed of themselves. We are more likely to stir their arrogance and rouse in them a reckless aggressiveness. Self- righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.3
Americans reading this sage observation by Eric Hoffer no doubt immediately find themselves relating it to the attitudes of many of their countrymen toward blacks. Particularly in the turbulent 1960s in the South, many whites confronted with the obvious injustice of the Jim Crow laws, the separate and inferior education provided to blacks, and the widespread denial of their fundamental right to vote, retreated into an attitude that can be described only as “close- minded.” Human nature is very much the same everywhere, and it is not a purely rational nature. Close-mindedness and rationalizing are universal reactions to unsettling hard cold facts that go against the prevailing conventional view or narrow self-interest. As H. L. Mencken put it, “The way to please is to proclaim in a confident manner, not what is true, but what is merely comforting.”4 The German foreign minister, obviously an excellent politician and diplomat, knew well that the truth of his statement was less important than the fact that it was pleasing.
How appropriate was his shrewd response to his audience, and how little revered is the triumph of truth and justice when it comes at the expense of fixed beliefs, is shown by the anecdote with which David Levering Lewis concludes his excellent “Dreyfus” book:
For a time there was a street in Mulhouse (Dreyfus’ Alsatian home town) named after Alfred Dreyfus--the only monument in all France--but not so long ago this street was widened and renamed. While riding in a taxi with the daughter of Mathieu Dreyfus, the writer began to ask about the street in Mulhouse. “Shush, Monsieur,” she interrupted, “please speak English--the driver, you know.”5
Prejudice on Campus
We remarked at the beginning of our “Dreyfus” essay on the irony of the reversal of roles of “liberal” and “conservative” between the original Dreyfus Affair and the current American version, the death of Vincent Foster. Certainly no surveys have been conducted, but it is this writer’s perception that there is an even more ironic role reversal with respect to formal education. The eventual exoneration of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was, as we all know, a great triumph for France’s intellectual class and for its men of letters, particularly for its pre-eminent literary figure, Emile Zola (Lewis tells us that for years afterward many Catholic children in France were taught to call a chamber pot a “Zola.”). But with respect to the Foster death, it seems that one is more likely to get a blue collar worker with little formal education to believe the government is covering up than for a member of the intelligentsia to express such a belief. The “experts” that the government has assembled all flaunt J.D.s and M.D.s and Ph. D.s of course, but they were clearly paid to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to their paymaster, which they duly did. More disturbing has been the performance of the putative independent seekers of truth, the professional writers, and most troubling by far has been the apparent complete complacency on America’s college campuses about this apparent assassination of a high level government official. Those whose education one would have expected to have made more broad-minded and open- minded are, almost to a man, completely prejudiced and close-minded about the Foster death. One might as well expound upon the virtues of interracial marriage with a Klu Kluxer as to suggest to a member of the ivory tower set that Foster didn’t really do himself in.
Why, one must wonder, is this so? The first reason that would come to mind in ordinary circumstances is that as generally learned people they know more, particularly about those matters of public affairs that ordinary folks have so little time for, and having studied the matter they have properly come to the conclusion that the official government verdict in the Foster death is the correct one.
That explanation one can quickly discard. You won’t find anyone anywhere in the country who will argue that his support of the government in this instance is based upon his having carefully examined the matter; much less is this the case among the professorate. Members of the media also studiously avoid taking this position when confronted directly, no doubt for fear their bluff might be called and they would be asked how Vince Foster could tear a note into 28 pieces without leaving any fingerprints or how he could drive himself to Fort Marcy Park without keys for the car, or how he could end up dead there before his car even arrived, or any one of dozens of possible questions about unexplainable inconsistencies in the official story. Michael Barone, senior writer for U.S. News and World Report, all-purpose pundit on CNN, and co-author of the voluminous and impressive annual Almanac of American Politics when asked at a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute in 1996 what he thought about the Foster death responded that he did not know enough to have an opinion6. The unfortunate thing is that one can say the same thing about virtually every news commentator and college professor in America, though many will, when pressed, nevertheless, offer an opinion in support of the government.
Mark Twain once observed that we are all ignorant, just ignorant of different things. But why would those whose job it is to be informed about the workings of our government so that they might teach our young people remain so ignorant about something so important as the suspicious death of a high-level government official? There are several possible explanations.
The first that springs to mind is that, as many surveys have shown, most college professors are liberal Democrats, and the Democrats are in power and would stand to lose the most if the official story were revealed to be untrue. But liberals, especially educated ones, pride themselves in their open-mindedness, or at least they used to, and the position adopted by most educated liberals in the Foster case is, as we have noted, an out-and-out, old-fashioned close-minded one, as bad as any traditional French hard-head in the Dreyfus Affair. Though a couple of liberal writers, Roger Morris and Sam Smith, have blazed a trail showing that one can be aware of apparent high-level crimes in a Democratic administration and still keep one's liberal credentials, virtually no one from the Left has followed them. We might also point out that conservative intellectual leaders have performed no better than liberal ones when it comes to the various Clinton scandals, particularly the Foster death. The only attempt at a serious Clinton expose from the Right, Boy Clinton by R. Emmett Tyrrell, doesn’t begin to measure up to Morris’s Partners in Power, the Clintons and their America; and conservative organs like Tyrrell’s American Spectator, The Washington Times, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and The Wall Street Journal have led the way in praising the findings of Kenneth Starr on Foster and in attacking Christopher Ruddy, the one American journalist raising questions.
Another argument that might be made is that, dependent as they are upon the printed word, academicians have had difficulty learning anything about the Foster case. Following on the heels of the writers of the first draft of our history, as journalists are often called, the compilers and interpreters in academia have been very poorly served by the draft writers. There is certainly no doubt about that, as we have made clear in this essay. Until the recent publication of the books by Ruddy and British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, there was simply no information available in the usual opinion-molding sources, either books, journals, magazines, or newspapers. The high-brow magazines usually read by college professors and equivalent professionals have been the absolute worst, as we pointed out earlier, in playing down the Clinton scandals.
Still, this is a poor excuse for the degree of ignorance that exists. College professors are supposed to go beyond such secondary sources. I have interviewed a community college criminal justice major in the Washington, DC area who did just that, writing a first-rate research paper disputing the government’s conclusions on the Foster death using government documents available in the George Mason University library. He did it, furthermore, without any assistance from the Foster researchers in the area, being unaware at the time of our existence. In the process he also demolished the argument that academicians might use for avoiding the subject, that is, that this is a topic of little general interest. In the last presentation in his public speaking class the assignment was to give a speech to persuade. With the topic already in hand from the paper he had written for another class and with what he figured was already an assured “A” in the course from his accumulated record, he decided to risk trying to persuade the class that Vince Foster was murdered. Actually, as he told me, the risk was not with the fellow students, whose vote would determine half his grade, but with the teacher, whom he had pegged as a “liberal” who wouldn’t like the topic. He didn’t know how right he was on both counts. The students not only gave him an “A” for his presentation, but also chose his as the best speech given, while, as he put it, the teacher distracted him with her look of absolute disgust throughout his speech. “You could almost see the smoke coming out of her ears,” he said, and as he took his seat she said, “You know I don’t agree with any of that.” She then put her grade where her mouth was, giving him a “C” on the presentation. That combined with the student assessment, fortunately, still gave him a “B” on the speech and an “A” for the course.
We have heard so many stories in recent years of the sort of ideological purity being enforced on campuses these days, one could imagine this little scene being played out almost anywhere in the country. In fact, one might more readily expect it at one of the elite universities instead of at a suburban community college. By happenstance there was more than ideological blindness at work in this instance, and I tell it because it is one of those cases where truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, not because of any larger point that it supports. In the small world that is metropolitan Washington, the speech teacher happened to be the wife of Robert Bryant, currently second in command in the FBI and their spokesman at the joint Park Police, Justice Department, FBI press conference in which the initial Foster “suicide” conclusion was announced on August 10, 1993. The student had not been aware of the fact, and I took some pleasure in breaking the news to him.
This student’s resourcefulness in preparing a persuasive case against the government in the Foster death demonstrates convincingly that the failings of the faculty are more of will than of means. Surely, unless they are hopelessly behind the times, many of them must have also discovered by now what a magnificent research tool the Internet is. Anyone employing the usual search engines on the Net would quickly discover that the view contrary to the official one is thoroughly dominant (even the legions of government disinformationists on the Net have to endorse it to retain any credibility at all) and that the traditional scholarly sort of documentation supporting that view can be found on the Net in abundance. How can so many people with a pretense to being intelligent and/or learned remain completely oblivious to that fact?
Let us take a couple of more shots at why the less formally educated seem to be more skeptical of the government in the Foster case than are those more formally educated. Many of the less formally educated work in jobs that put a premium on horse sense where there is a serious penalty for being wrong. A car cannot be persuaded to run. To be repaired properly, its failings must be properly diagnosed. The same can be said for household plumbing, wiring, or appliances. I still recall the words of a former chicken-farming Mexican-American friend of mine in the Army who absolutely could not stand the Army’s bureaucratic ways: “The thing I like about chicken farming,” he said, “is that you can’t bullshit a chicken.” People engaged in such activities in many ways keep their critical faculties sharper than do those who only need to keep up the proper front.
University people are also less likely to be a part of the national gun culture. They are not as likely to have had military service nor do they often engage in hunting for recreation. They don’t know what a .38 caliber revolver sounds like when fired and they know nothing of its recoil or the damage that it or a similar weapon would do firing a high-velocity bullet through the skull of a living person at point-blank range. Anyone with gun experience would be much more likely to be skeptical of the government story in the Foster case if he had heard anything at all about the relative tidiness of the body and the position of the gun where the body was found.
That better educated people are less likely to question the government than less educated people in the Foster case might also be a reflection on our education system and on our society. Those who make it over the educational hurdles increasingly do so not because they are more intelligent but because they are more willing to play the game and do what it takes to please those with authority over them. Similarly, those in the professional classes need to be more careful about having and expressing political opinions that might rub those with authority over them the wrong way, whereas a mechanic or a truck driver, say, can say or think pretty well what he wants and no one will care. It is also a tribute to the effectiveness of the propaganda job that the mainstream press has done in the Foster case that the general impression seems to exist among the timid professional classes that having doubts about the official line somehow makes one a wild- eyed extremist. A while back I put these observations in verse form in a commentary on a well- known scholarly book. The book, by an Ivy League psychologist and a former social worker turned conservative activist, smugly posited that because there is, as they claim almost as an article of faith, greater equality of opportunity than ever in our society the ones who “make it” are increasingly those in the right or superior tail of a normal curve of a distribution of human attributes. Those who fail and end up poor and miserable are, as they see it, from the left or inferior tail of the normal, bell-shaped curve:
We live in a sort of democracy
Columnist Joseph Sobran put it this way in a December 2, 1997, article on education in The Washington Times entitled, “Up to Speed on Conformity”:
When I was a schoolboy, back in the sunny 1950s, we used to get solemn lectures on the dangers of “conformity.” Many intellectuals thought Americans were becoming intellectually timid. They were right, but for the wrong reasons.
Most intellectuals are themselves conformists. They tend to be liberal in their politics and social views and to exert pressure on others to agree with them. This would be natural and pardonable if the pressure took the form of reasoned argument, but too often it takes the form of ridicule, name calling, snobbery and ostracism.
When the word “extremist” is routinely applied to dissenting views and “out of the mainstream” is used as a dismissal, it’s safe to say that the pressure to conform has become very intense. Why else would these vacuous charges have any force? The recent revolt against “political correctness” is an encouraging sign that many people have had enough.
Education...has become a form of mass production, to be supervised by the state for the good of the state.
...the natural result is a population that sets great store by conformity to the mass. In public controversies, most people are chiefly concerned to play it safe. Before they take any position, they ask themselves not “Is it true?” but “What will happen to me if I say this?”
Even scholars nowadays behave like bureaucrats. And why not? The university, usually state-supported now, has become a form of bureaucracy, where a premium is placed on promotion, security and tenure, while fads and trends, mostly political, exert their own brief tyrannies. Rarely has staying in fashion been so important in intellectual life.
These developments are dangerous for the future of freedom in the country, and Sobran has only partially diagnosed the malady. The tenure system was created for the purpose of buttressing freedom of thought and freedom of expression. The university would be the one place where one could pursue truth without fear or favor. If a professor’s pursuit of truth were to lead him into dangerous waters, he need not, like so many of his fellow citizens, fear for his job because he would be protected by tenure. Unfortunately, if the extreme reticence of the academic community in the face of not just the Foster scandal, but a host of others related to the presidency and the federal government in general, is any indication, the tenure system is not working as intended. The problem, it would appear, is that the habits of mind and behavior developed to achieve tenure are very difficult to break once tenure is achieved. The supreme irony here is that those achieving tenure, then, are precisely those least fit to make proper use of the privileges thus granted.
At bottom, though, is the corruption of money. The old saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” has not lost any of its force in modern times, and increasingly, the payer of the piper in higher education in America has become the government. Private colleges, almost more than directly state-supported institutions, depend heavily upon the ultimately federally-funded research grants that their faculty can attract and their students more and more need federal grants and loans to foot the burgeoning higher-education bill. We hear a lot of talk, especially from “mainstream conservative” sources about “1960s radicals” now running the show on college campuses, but what there is of it is mainly a safe form of social radicalism of the “make-love-not- war” variety, as though sexual license were the antithesis of and the antidote for the creeping militarization of our society and all that that entails. One important part of that militarization is a “don’t-make-waves” careerist mentality that has spread from uniform to gown.
We are also well aware of how much of academia, with their anti-war “teach-ins,” turned against the government as our nation’s leaders seemed to be the last ones to figure out that our Southeast Asian venture was a bust. But they were not alone. Major news organs like The New York Times and The Washington Post, which had been enthusiastic supporters of the anti- communist crusade in Vietnam during the early stages of the war also came out strongly against the government policy in the later stages. Perhaps what we were witnessing was nothing more than the temporary interruption of a trend that was set strongly in motion during World War II, no less for higher education than for the major news media, and now that their failing students no longer run the risk of being drafted to die in pointless battle, college faculties are back on the trend line:
For Yale, and for higher education generally, the effects of the war would never be forgotten. The university had been transformed; with the arrival of postwar veterans, its student body matured; with the development of its wartime institutes, especially in the social sciences, its links to the government had been forged, for good or ill, so that pure research would be harnessed to the service of the state.7
Money, of course, is not just a force for bad. It is as necessary for those who would do good as for those who would do evil. In fact, the evidence is very strong that the German foreign minister was wrong about the importance of Captain Dreyfus’ Jewishness in effecting his return from Devil’s Island. Publicity usually takes money, and Dreyfus’ case emerged from its initial first couple of years of obscurity not because of any organized Jewish effort, but because the Dreyfus family had money, and the dedicated older brother, Mathieu, was determined to spend as much as it took to get justice for Alfred. To be sure, the first Dreyfusard, the young firebrand journalist, Bernard Lazare, was one of the first aggressive Jewish activists, having written a major work on the history and causes of anti-Semitism, and to him, both in his heart and in the case he made publicly, “Dreyfus was the symbol of the persecuted Jew.”8 But contrary to the claims of the anti- Dreyfusards, he apparently got very little, if any, organized Jewish assistance for the cause of the convicted Captain.
For most French Jews, this intransigent, overly vehement, revolutionary writer lent support to the legend of the Jewish syndicate of cosmopolites and compromised the Jews dangerously by supporting, because he was Jewish, the cause of a traitor.9
Jews are like any other people in choosing to believe that which it is most comfortable to believe. Even the man who later founded Zionism, Theodore Herzl, who covered the first Dreyfus trial as Paris correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse of Austria, wrote in his dispatch upon the conclusion of the trial that Dreyfus was probably guilty, though he would later claim that it was the Dreyfus ordeal that “made me a Zionist.”10
There was more than enough reason for Jews, like everyone else, not to want to believe Lazare. Certainly very few would want to admit to themselves that “there but for the grace of God go I.” It could only make everyone feel less secure. The state had put its full authority behind the conviction. The Dreyfus family was from Alsace, and though they were culturally French right to the bone, their textile factory still operated there even though the region had become a part of Germany as a result of the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. And what sort of man would want to defy convention and assault that bastion of privilege that was the French military officer caste in the first place? Dreyfus’ strong French patriotism, which was a major motivation for his choosing the military career, was for others, not the least of whom were fellow Jews, just another good reason to suspect him.
In addition to Lazare, perhaps the most politically prominent Jew in the country, Chamber of Deputies member Joseph Reinach, was eventually won over to the Dreyfusard cause and he did yeoman’s work for it, but he had to struggle against his co-religionists. By late 1897, three years into the Affair, organized Jewish opinion was gravitating much more toward the new idea of a restored homeland in Israel, a development that to Reinach could only undercut the cause of justice for Alfred Dreyfus. Reinach was so disturbed that he wrote an article in Le Figaro denouncing it:
The sole result of this campaign, which in any case is destined for a pitiful failure, would be to give the impression...that those Frenchmen who belong to the Jewish faith are subordinating the idea of the fatherland to I cannot imagine what sort of solidarity which existed in a vague way during barbarous times, which was prevalent no doubt at the origin of civilized societies, but which in modern societies is an anachronism.11
So the eventual exoneration of Dreyfus was a triumph not of Jews as a group, but a triumph of truth and justice. It was also a triumph of a group of individuals dedicated to truth and justice, some of whom were Jewish and some of whom were not. But it was not all just a case of high ideals winning out. It was no doubt, to a degree, a triumph of money as well. Here is Bernard Lazare’s initial reaction when asked by his publisher to take a position on the Dreyfus case:
Why? I know neither him nor his people. If he were some poor devil, I would have worried for him. But Dreyfus and his family are very rich, they say; they’ll be able to take care of themselves very well without me, especially if he is innocent..12.
But after examining the evidence he was won over and did prodigious work for the cause. Though the author David Levering Lewis says Lazare “volunteered” his services to the Dreyfus family, anti-Dreyfusards have consistently claimed that he was “bought” by the Dreyfus family. The debate, I believe, is a pointless one. The family had lawyers who could hardly have been expected to work for free. Lazare was a journalist who had to earn a living, and he did put in a great deal of time for the Dreyfus family. The family no doubt bore much of the logistical expense of his work such as printing up and distributing the initial 3,000 copies of Lazare’s pamphlet laying out the case for Dreyfus’ innocence. But Lazare was extraordinarily idealistic, and if he contended that he was not actually paid for his services to the Dreyfus family he more than earned the right to be taken at his word. The relevant point, for our purposes, is that the “bought” charge was so persistently made by his opponents. The implication behind it is that the truth of the matter is not the important thing. Confident that the disparity of resources is massively on their side, the authorities and their apologists are quick to attack anyone who would dispute them as a “profiteer.”
When it comes to the Foster case the disparity of resources on the two sides is even greater than in the Dreyfus Affair. We have noted the large and fluctuating number of daily newspapers there were in Paris at the time, which is an indicator of the ease with which one could get into the newspaper business and reach a significant audience. Newspapers were how the residents of Paris got their news. We have a number of media, and with the exception of the Internet, all are prodigiously expensive to get into. The greater their scope and reach, the more expensive it is to enter the business. Most people now get their news from television, the most expensive business, and the major television networks have been a monolith on the Foster case, actively preventing news from reaching the public that dispute the official government line, and, in some instances, actively and very dishonestly promoting the government line. Newspapers are next in the hierarchy, both in expense to operate and in influence, and they have been almost as monolithic, with only a few little chinks in the armor creeping in at The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Investor’s Business Daily. Magazines come next, and, surprisingly, across the political spectrum from The Nation on the left to the American Spectator on the right, no information has been allowed out through their pages that breaks ranks in any significant way with the massive cover-up effort13. At the bottom of the news hierarchy are the local radio stations with their call-in talk shows. Even the radio stations are mainly owned by large, rich conglomerates, but some have permitted guests like the journalists Christopher Ruddy and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, researcher Hugh Sprunt, and the witness Patrick Knowlton and his lawyer, John Clarke.
As great as the disparity of power has been, it has not been great enough for the people in the White House. The White House Counsel’s Office has actually produced a 331-page report entitled “The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” which it supplied secretly to media people until the Wall Street Journal made the existence of the report public. The principal thesis of the report is that all the information about the Clinton scandals that gets out, which is, of course, characterized as nothing more than mere conspiracy theorizing, can be traced ultimately to the banking fortune of Pittsburgh conservative, Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife employs Ruddy at his small newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and does provide financial backing to such entities as Accuracy in Media, Strategic Investment Newsletter, the Western Journalism Center, and the American Spectator (this last having been terminated after the magazine attacked Ruddy on his Foster reporting).
There is no doubt that without Scaife’s considerable commitment of money the news on the Foster death would have been even more effectively suppressed, but all that Scaife has spent has really done very little to penetrate the public consciousness. Only the American Spectator has anything like a mass audience, and, as we have noted, it has gone along with the government on Foster14. The relative meagerness of the opposition did not prevent the government and its apologists from raising the “bought” or “profiteer” charge, though. What they apparently fear above all else is that the free enterprise ideal in journalism might actually work and that someone might spread the truth in a self-sustaining manner by selling it. Thus, on its scurrilous Sixty Minutes piece on Ruddy, CBS had a lawyer for one of the Park Policemen say, outrageously falsely, that Strategic Investment had made a half-million dollars on its Foster video (Bear in mind that there is good reason to doubt the sincerity of this entire Scaife operation. Christopher Ruddy is certainly “bought” by Scaife--in the sense that he openly employs him-- to a greater degree than Lazare was ever bought by the Dreyfus family so Ruddy’s work can be interpreted as probably the best reflection of the Scaife intentions.. The reader is referred, in turn, to Part 2 of my “Dreyfus” for a detailed examination of Ruddy’s bona fides. It was on this video where the bald and unsupported statement was made---a statement that Mike Wallace of Sixty Minutes jumped all over-- that Foster was left-handed.).
My own experience perhaps offers better parallels with the charges leveled against Lazare than does the experience of the Scaife team. The family of the young Fairfax County, Virginia, college student, Tommy Burkett, whose violent death on December 1, 1991, was ruled a suicide, certainly has behaved more like the dedicated Dreyfus family than have Vincent Foster’s survivors. His connection to the Foster death is, among others, that he had the same autopsy doctor, James Beyer, who performed the same sort of job as he did on Foster; he had the same medical examiner, Donald Haut; and the current second ranking man in the FBI, Robert Bryant, involved himself in his case before he had any apparent jurisdiction, as he did in the Foster case. At least as significant is the fact that Tommy, his parents learned after his death, had been induced into doing undercover work for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Ambrose Evans- Pritchard, in his powerful new book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, as one of two cases illustrating, at the very least, Dr. Beyer’s lack of competence refers to the “highly sensitive death of Tommy Burkett,” and proceeds to prove how sensitive it is by not bothering to tell us why.15
The parents found Tommy seated dead in his upstairs room with his legs crossed at the feet, his hands folded on his lap, and the family revolver lying on top of his hands with its cylinder slightly ajar. A single bullet was in the wall above his head but not where it should have been if he had shot himself through the mouth as the police concluded. The family also noticed blood spatter as though from gunshots on downstairs walls. The emergency workers who first arrived told the parents that from the condition of the body it was apparent that Tommy had been dead for several hours. The first arriving policeman, on the other hand, said that he had died just minutes before the parents arrived home, and before that, even before he viewed the body he told the mother, “I’ve seen lots of these suicides. Don’t blame yourself.” Even though the bullet was not taken from the wall and the curious blood spatter was not analyzed by the police, with the help of Dr. Beyer’s autopsy, they ruled suicide.16 Later, the parents paid for the body to be exhumed and another autopsy to be performed. That autopsy revealed a broken jaw, a mangled ear, and numerous contusions that had not been noted by Dr. Beyer. Young Burkett had clearly been beaten to death.
This is only a small sample of the numerous anomalies in the Burkett death. After it appeared on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries the FBI was moved to conduct a civil rights investigation of the case. Predictably, in December of 1995, they came to the same conclusion as the police, but they held back what they said was a 1,800-page report backing up their conclusions. Only recently, with the help of the Virginia congressional delegation, has the FBI begun to release piecemeal to the parents a heavily redacted, unnumbered hodgepodge of documents which they say constitute part of the report. As of this writing the parents have just begun to analyze and respond to it through the same congressional channels by which they received the report. Their next immediate goal is to obtain congressional hearings on the case.17
Another similarity to the Foster case, and perhaps the most telling one, has been the role of the media. For 18 months no newspaper would even mention Tommy’s death even though reporters would sound very interested when the parents first talked to them. Only when the parents got the idea of making the original overture by pay phone instead of their home phone did they get results, Later they had a professional sweep done of their phone system and found that the phone was being tapped. A reporter for The Washington Post Sunday Magazine later interviewed the parents at length, but, to this day, the only thing that has appeared about Tommy Burkett in The Washington Post has been an “in memoriam” on the obituary page paid for by the parents.
I have written for the newsletter that the family puts out periodically, and I included song lyrics about the story and an essay about the connections and similarities of the case to Foster’s in my privately-published book, The New Moral Order. Internet correspondents professing to care greatly about government corruption and the scandals of the Clinton, and, tellingly, only the Clinton administration have labored mightily to hang the “profiteer” label on me for offering the book for sale on the Net and one of them went so far as to ask me, as one of many prying questions he put to me by private E-mail, if I was being paid by the Burkett family.
The Burkett parents are both English teachers, the father in public high school and the mother in college. They don’t have the money that the Dreyfus family had, but they do have the same dedication and determination. If they did have that much money there is a very good chance that they would be a good deal farther down the road toward justice than they are now. And if they could so easily afford to pay people to publicize their quest for justice, I don’t know that I would refuse any offer they might make to pay me, but the usual route these days is to hire a public relations firm for such things. From the experience I can certainly say that I know how Bernard Lazare must have felt when he was publicly dismissed as someone who had been “bought” by the Dreyfus family.
It is now time to reflect upon the lessons of the of the highest ranking government official to die violently under mysterious circumstances since President Kennedy. The cost, in a purely monetary sense, of the apparent murder would have been nominal, but the expense of the continuing cover-up is enormous. What are the meager resources of a few independent truth seekers selling a few books, tapes, and videos compared to the federal government, with its tentacles into academia and its joint operation with the corporate media establishment? As we look upon the pyramids of Egypt or some magnificent Gothic cathedral in Europe, we can’t help thinking about the sheer manpower that had to be mobilized to create such structures. Similarly, we cannot help but be impressed with the expensive manpower holding together the edifice of lies in the Foster case. The millions of dollars of taxpayer money that went to the Fiske and Starr cover-ups may be the most obvious monetary hemorrhage, but think for a minute of what the simple act of attempting to intimidate the witness Patrick Knowlton must have cost. He has counted at least 25 different men putting the evil eye on him in the streets of Washington, and behind them there had to be a support structure that could mobilize so many people on short notice. More than that, the perpetrators had to be sure in advance that the vast resources controlled by those who run the media empires would not, in turn, mobilize any part of those resources to inform the public of the brazen act.
Recall now the words of the first Republican Party president with which we began the first part of the larger “Dreyfus” essay:
In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.
Those words were spoken in a period of great crisis for our country. Abraham Lincoln, in the first of their series of debates, was faulting Judge Stephen Douglas for his influential public pronouncements on the slavery issue, which Lincoln deemed to be excessively legalistic and lacking in morality. Consider further the words of Thomas Jefferson, a man who we might say was our first Democratic Party president:
The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.
Jefferson wrote this in a letter to Colonel Edward Carrington shortly before the formulation of our Constitution, whose writers took the sentiments to heart with their powerful protection for freedom of expression in the very First Amendment.
America’s Dreyfus Affair has made plain, with the parties of Lincoln and Jefferson
sharing power and responsibility, and with a man at the top who took his middle name from
the latter, that what that great founding father most dreaded is now a reality. For all
the protection that he had hoped they would provide us against that government, and
don’t, we now have a government without newspapers.
December 30, 1997
1. David Martin, from “Of Swords and Pens,” in The New Moral Order, the Poems and Essays of David Martin (Chantilly, VA: DCD Publishers, 1995) p. 46. The entire poem is as follows:
Of Swords and Pens
The pen may be stronger than the sword
Those who rule know all too well
In our land there’s little chance
2. David Levering Lewis, Prisoners of Honor, the Dreyfus Affair (New York: Henry
Holt and Company, 1973) p. 301.
3. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (New York: The New American Library, 1951) p. 89.
4. “The Cult of Hope,” in Prejudices (New York: Vintage Books, 1958) p. 89.
5. Op. cit., p. 325.
6. ABC-TV reporter and commentator Cokie Roberts demonstrated another tack that is commonly taken when responding to a question about the Foster case at a panel discussion at American University in Washington. “There are hundreds of first rate reporters in the country,” she said, “and you can be sure you would have read about it if there had been anything to it.”
7. Robin W. Winks, Cloak and Gown, Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961 (New York: William Morrow, 1987) p. 35.
8. Jean-Denis Bredin, The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986) p. 138.
9. Ibid. p. 139.
10. Lewis, op. cit., p. 60.
11. Ibid., p. 260.
12. Bredin, op. cit., p. 135.
13. Perhaps in 1998 the cover-up house will crumble. The January 1998 issue of The American Spectator has a very favorable review by quintessential Washington insider, Robert D. Novak, of the best and most powerful book that the American Press has ever largely ignored, Ambrose Evans Pritchard’s The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories. Novak repeats uncritically the following charge from the Evans-Pritchard book:
Authorities rearranged the “crime scene” at Fort Marcy Park to move White House aide Vincent Foster’s body and place a gun in his hand. Evidence was hidden and destroyed, and testimony by witnesses altered by the FBI to fit the suicide theory. Witnesses, in fact, were harassed. Foster’s “suicide” note appears to be a planted forgery. The career Justice Department prosecutor assigned by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr found himself blocked as he probed for the truth, and he returned to his former duties with his mouth shut tight.
Novak goes on to say that “...Evans-Pritchard holds out hope for the ‘the
ordinary citizens’ who will ‘cleanse the institutions of this country before
they become irretrievably corrupt.’ Patrick Knowlton, a harassed witness in the Vince
Foster case, last year filed a federal tort claim naming FBI agents as defendants.”
14. But see the late breaking development detailed in the previous note.
15. The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc.) p. 148.
16. The parents themselves later had the bullet removed and analyzed. The examiners found no trace of human tissue on the bullet, indicating that it had not passed through any part of a human body, but it had apparently passed through something. About half of the bullet was missing and could not be accounted for.
17. For more information contact Tom Burkett and Beth George, 13456 Muirkirk Lane, Herndon, VA 20171, Tel. (703) 435-3112. E-mail email@example.com. Especially recommended is the web site of the national organization the Burketts have founded, Parents Against Corruption and Cover-up: http://www.clark.net/pub/tburkett/pacc/PACC.html. For all four parts of “America’s Dreyfus Affair, the Case of the Death of Vincent Foster,” go to http://www.aci.net/kalliste/
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