States of Denial


A chapter (cut in the edit) from my new book, Can’t You Get Along With Anyone? A Writer’s Memoir and a Tale of a Lost Surfer’s Paradise.

(I use this title as a plug for Bob Woodward’s new book: the least one writer can do for another: Bob would do the same for me, right?)

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

~ George Orwell

April 6, 2006. Nine days until my self-imposed, symmetry-inspired deadline to finish this book before I have to leave this little Caribbean island. It’s going to be close.

CNN. I generally let it rip, turn CNN loose in the background as I write. This to surround myself with lies, steep myself in them, wallow in them. The BBC sometimes. (But how I lament the lack of the Fox News Network on this island!) Such perspective, such (darkly) comic relief it all is, as I hit the true homestretch, sprint for the wire.


Woodward. Bob Woodward. I’ve been reading Bob Woodward to further steep myself in lies, and in Lies. Here’s a little passage from his book, Veil; The Secret Wars of the CIA, that got my attention:

…after (CIA Director) Casey had worked with the Saudi intelligence service and its ambassador in Washington to arrange the assassination of the archterrorist Fadlallah. Instead of Fadlallah, the car bomb had killed at least eighty people, many innocent.

When I came across this passage I had to stop and read it again, wondering how and why it had gotten into a book by Bob Woodward. With all his toadying lies by omission, outright lies and Lies, how and why had Woodward included in his book this doozey of an admission?

I knew of the 1985 Beirut car bombing and that the CIA had been behind it from so-called dissident literature: The mainstream press in their contemporaneous reporting of the incident – and it of course bore minimal discussion since the victims were Arabs – did not spill the beans about who was responsible, although you would think it worthy of at least cursory mention.

Details: The car bomb was placed in front of a mosque, timed to detonate as the worshippers were leaving. Aside from the 80-plus human beings killed outright, 250 or so were maimed or injured, mostly women and children. The bomb destroyed most of a city block and severely damaged the mosque; an infant in its crib on the next block was killed by flying debris. The explosion was nothing short of catastrophic; in the realm of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Woodward devotes six pages of Veil to this incident; he really had the dope on it. This being Bob Woodward, let’s take him on his word that he has his facts straight.

Some facts: President Ronald Reagan had to sign a specific presidential finding before the operation could be carried out (after signing a finding allowing it to be set up). The plan involved a car bomb rather than a “cleaner” assassination – a sniper or other type of lone gunman, say – so the Israelis, who have no problem with mass killings of Lebanese (or any Arabs), could be blamed. They wanted it to be a mess, a slaughter.

But they f__k up. Fadlallah isn’t nearby and over 300 people are killed or maimed.

Hold on. Notice the last two words of the above quoted passage from Veil, Bob Woodward’s definitive history of the CIA in the 1980s. Woodward characterizes the car bomb casualties thus: “many innocent.” Since neither Fadlallah nor any other suspected terrorists were apparently killed or maimed, where does Woodward come up with “many innocent”? As far as he knows, the victims were all innocent, no? A question for Bob: Which of the victims was guilty? And guilty of what?

Imagine something. Imagine you’re there in Beirut at the mosque right after the explosion, dazed and wandering around in the smoke and debris and torn bodies looking for a loved one, a child, say.

Your six-year-old daughter, say. You slip and fall. Getting up you realize that that you stepped on the slick and bloody stomach and intestines of your child, who had been eviscerated by shrapnel. She’s not quite dead yet and is crying out for you. You try to gather up her guts and put them back inside her…

Enough, huh? I mean who needs to actually reflect on what it was like that day? Who needs to think about the specific human beings who were slaughtered?

Point being: Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, and William J. Casey, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, did this. (For UK readers: A British intelligence operative was involved in the planning as well.)

Here’s how Woodward sums up the incident: “(Casey) was too smart not to see that he and the White House had broken the rules, probably the law.”

Broken the rules? Probably the law? A question for Bob: What State of Denial were you living in that you could claim that a car bombing that slaughters scores and maims hundreds is rule breaking? What are we doing here, playing Parcheesi? Probably law breaking? You want a list of laws, international and domestic – plus supreme laws of the land, this land, the U.S. of A. – that were broken in this collusion between the President and CIA Director? On the other hand, it’s now explained why in all your books, your nonfiction books, wherein the word “terrorism” (or its variations, like “terror” or “terrorist”) are used in total hundreds of times, you never define the word. Bob, I’m going to define it for you, the way you use it: It’s terrorism if it’s done to us. If we do it, it’s… something else.

I’ll again ask the question regarding Woodward’s book about the secret wars of the CIA: How and why had Woodward included this doozey of an admission?

Answer: Because the car bombing that killed and maimed hundreds of people wasn’t terrorism, but just an unfortunate incident in “the war on terror.” (In the U.S. government’s list of terrorist acts of 1985, the Beirut car bombing does not appear. Perhaps the title of Bob Woodward’s new book was referring to this circumstance. Then again, perhaps not.)

Here’s an observation, plus a question, for Bob Woodward: In the 1970s you were largely responsible for toppling a president for obstruction of justice, yet you now consider a President’s collusion in mass murder to be rule breaking?

Did something awful happen to you or am I missing something here?

As described, I wrote the above in April of this year (a chapter in my new book, later cut). As I now write the date is October 1st, six months later. I just watched Bob Woodward on C-Span’s Book TV, pitching State of Denial.

Woodward’s appearance on Book TV was interesting in that it was made clear up front by the moderator that there would be no audience Q & A of Bob Woodward, the author of a book the subject of which is states of denial.

An audience Q & A following an author’s appearance is a staple of Book TV.

Why no Q & A this time?

Bob Woodward, the legendary journalist who brought down a corrupt president by asking questions, did not want to answer questions.

Why not? Why did legendary journalist Bob Woodward not want to answer questions?

One possible answer: Because he was afraid someone might have asked if State of Denial is about the psychological condition someone might be living under to think that a president’s collusion in mass murder is rule breaking.

Another possible answer: Because he was afraid someone might have asked if something awful had happened to him.

October 9, 2006

Allan Weisbecker is a screenwriter, plus the author of a novel, Cosmic Banditos, and two memoirs, In Search of Captain Zero and Can’t You Get Along With Anyone? A Writer’s Memoir, and a Tale of a Lost Surfer’s Paradise. Visit his website.