Secrecy Sullies Bush Presidency
by Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star Editor
Kansas City Star
Wednesday, Mar 3, 2004
Some recent events showed how President Bush’s silence amid many pressing questions has only caused suspicion about his administration to grow.
An extreme case is the lawsuit Ellen Mariani filed under the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against President Bush and other White House officials. Mariani’s retired husband, Neil Mariani, died Sept. 11, 2001, on United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center.
Mariani and her lawyer, Philip J. Berg, last month told a packed Unity Temple on the Plaza that they wanted to know why the Bush administration allowed the terrorist attacks to happen. Mariani said she has been stonewalled in her search for why her husband of 13 years died, as did thousands of others.
He was on his way to her daughter’s wedding. “I don’t have time to grieve, and I haven’t grieved yet,” said Mariani, 65, of Derry, N.H.
“But I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve got determination that we will get to the bottom of this.”
She said that she is living on Social Security and that she declined to apply for money from the federal Victims Compensation Fund for those families who agree not to sue for damages. Her lawsuit seeks to uncover the truth about Sept. 11.
The truth has remained hidden. None of the earlier investigations has had gavel-to-gavel television coverage or unfettered access to all of the information available. The current federal commission examining the attacks also has been hampered.
Such tactics produce more public suspicion and mistrust of government.
“There is corruption going on here,” Mariani said. “We’re being lied to. They disrespected all of us as a family.
“I said, ‘Neil, you’ll never be forgotten.’ They don’t know who they’re messing with.”
Berg, a deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania from 1972 to 1980, added: “This lawsuit is for everyone in this country who wants truth and justice. Together we can defeat what’s going on.”
The loss of civil liberties and the Bush administration’s continuing secrecy threaten our republic. “We feel that there is a mob in the White House,” Berg said.
Congress also has been “gutless” as a constitutional check against executive branch abuses. “We are going to do everything in our power to uncover the truth of 9-11,” Berg said. “This is so important.”
The crowd at last Sunday’s peace rally near the Country Club Plaza felt the same way. People are right to question how U.S. intelligence didn’t prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and why Afghanistan and Iraq have been key aims of the endless wars against terrorism.
The war in Iraq was the focus at Avila University, where a crowd on Feb. 19 watched the documentary, “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War.” The film showed U.S. intelligence and other officials explaining that there was no justification for the war in Iraq and for the deaths and injuries of American troops and Iraqi civilians.
The Bush administration bamboozled the American public by linking the terrorist attacks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and saying he had weaponsof mass destruction when none existed.
What was striking in the darkness as the film flickered was the audience’s laughter during some serious footage. People chuckled when news clips played of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice speaking emphatically of “smoking guns,” “mushroom clouds” and “chemical and biological weapons.”
“Our people will find the truth,” Bush said. “And the truth is we have good intelligence.”
The audience was right. It is ludicrous now. But the growing number of grim anniversaries since Bush took office is no laughing matter. This month we’ll commemorate the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Meanwhile, the truth behind the increasing national state of sadness remains hidden. The misinformation continues. Government secrecy grows, and so does our suspicion.
Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star’s Editorial Board. To reach him, call (816) 234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.