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America's Matrix, Revisited

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In this case, the Bush administration, which said for months that the Iraqi weapons secrets would be revealed once U.S. forces captured and questioned Iraq 's top scientists, now doesn 't like what those scientists are saying. When questioned, the captured scientists said the labs were used to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons.

In the CIA-DIA report, U.S. analysts agreed that hydrogen production was a plausible explanation for the labs. "Some of the features of the trailer a gas collection system and the presence of a caustic are consistent with both bio-production and hydrogen production, " the CIA-DIA report said. "The plant 's design possibly could be used to produce hydrogen using a chemical reaction. "

The report also noted that "preliminary sample analysis results are negative for five standard BW agents, including bacillus anthracis, and for growth media for those agents. " Also missing are companion mobile labs that would be needed "to prepare and sterilize the media and to concentrate and possibly dry the agent, before the agent is ready for introduction into a delivery system, such as bulk-filled munitions, " the CIA-DIA report said.

In other words, U.S. intelligence analysts found no evidence that these labs had been used to make biological weapons or that the two labs alone could produce weaponized BW agents. But that was obviously the wrong answer.

Arguing the Issue

So the CIA-DIA analysis veered off into an argumentative direction. The report asserted that the labs would be "inefficient " for producing hydrogen because their capacity is "larger than typical units for hydrogen production for weather balloons. " Better systems are "commercially available, " said the CIA-DIA report, dated May 28, 2003.

But the U.S. analysts don 't assess whether those more efficient systems would have been "commercially available " to Iraq, which has faced a decade of trade sanctions. What may be considered "inefficient " to U.S. scientists might be the best home-made option available to Iraqis.

Having made the inefficiency argument, the CIA-DIA analysis concluded that hydrogen production must be a "cover story " and that "BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles. " In the American Matrix, pretty much any argument can work if the guys in charge want it to.
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Tom Tomorrow 's "This Modern World " captured this aspect of what he called "The Republican Matrix " in a cartoon that also uses the analogy of the Matrix movies.

In the cartoon 's drawings, clueless Americans parrot back Bush administration messages as the cartoon asks, "What is the Republican Matrix? It is an illusion that engulfs us all ...a steady barrage of images which obscure reality. It is a world born anew each day ...in which there is nothing to be learned from the lessons of the past ...a world where logic holds no sway ...where up is down and black is white ...where reality itself is a malleable thing ...subject to constant revision. In short, it 's their world. "

The cartoon ends with a frame showing Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in sunglasses like those worn by the anti-human "agents " in the Matrix. "What should we do today, fellas? " Bush asks. "Any damn thing we want, George, " answers Cheney.

Indeed, Bush and his advisers grasped that they faced few limits on how far they could push their political/media advantage. Protected by an army of media allies, who either shared a conservative ideology or saw financial gain in playing along, Bush learned that he stood little risk no matter how over-the-top his imagery or assertions. Many Americans, too, seemed to enjoy the process of their own manipulation.

Top Gun
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The administration was so confident about this control that Bush dared dress up in a Top Gun outfit for an unnecessary jet flight to a U.S. aircraft carrier on May 1 to declare victory over Iraq.

The USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been at sea for 10 months, was within helicopter range but that didn 't offer the exciting visuals of a carrier landing and Bush in a flight suit. So, the ship slowed its pace and circled idly in the Pacific Ocean to guarantee favorable camera angles while servicemen and women delayed their homecomings.

Though Bush 's father made great fun of Democrat Michael Dukakis when he rode in a tank in 1988 and the national news media had a field day in 1993 when President Bill Clinton got a haircut while Air Force One waited at a Los Angeles airport, the tone was different when Bush pulled off his Top Gun performance.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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