I'd just started filling up at the local Texaco when my know-it-all friend sauntered by with a newspaper under his arm. Smirking at his captive audience, he shook the paper at me. "How come a guy like me watching CNN and trawling the Internet can figure out what's going on better than you talking heads in the media?"
"What?" I said.
"I'm talking about those 28 pages they blacked out from that joint congressional report about 9-11. It's obvious they censored it to protect the Saudi Arabians."
"So you say," I sniffed.
"Think of those black lines they marked through all them words as just one long line. Well, my friend, that line runs right down the middle of the Bush White House. I saw Christoper Hitchens talking about it on MSNBC. He said the Bush administration is divided. On the one hand you have your old-guard establishment types, such as the Bush family, who got rich in the oil business. They're protecting the Saudis because they've had dealings with them so long it's embarrassing to admit it was mostly Saudis who turned those passenger planes into bombs and struck New York and Washington. Some in the royal family even funneled money to the hijackers."
"Old news," I said, "but who's that other White House faction you mentioned?"
"That's where it gets interesting, buddy. I call them the puppet masters, because they're manipulating their boss's petty fears and ambitions as well as ours to get their way, but the media mostly calls them neocons. You know, short for neo-conservatives, because they like to think of themselves as new and daring sorts of conservatives. They're in the news lately, people like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and their friend Billy Kristol. They think America should rule the world to spread our superior values, dontcha know."
"Huh?" I jiggled the hose.
"You should educate yourself, my friend. Look up PNAC, Project for the New American Century," he said impatiently. "In addition to patriotism bordering on the religious, the neocons have a deep attachment to Israel, so it goes without saying they despise Saudi Arabia. But they can't advocate actual war with the Saudis because most of our allies depend on them for oil. So the neocons caved to the Bushies and agreed to censor this report. What the heck, 28 blacked out pages make the Saudis look as bad as anything you could publish anyway. So the neocons are satisfied to sit back and let the Saudis twist in the wind while our soldiers mop up Iraq."
"What does Iraq have to do with all this?"
"At last, an intelligent question from the media. You see, the neocons have known all along that only by TAKING OVER Iraq could the US ever hope to TAKE ON Saudi Arabia. Iraq has oil we could secure for the world and a central location in the Middle East for stationing our troops. Plus, Saddam Hussein is a truly evil man. I've heard Wolfowitz and a half-dozen others on the idiot box tell how hitting Iraq was the one thing everybody in the Bush Administration could agree on. The neocons were for it because it gave the U.S. a position of strength for inevitable conflicts with other Arab countries. Bush wanted war with Iraq for other reasons, though. He's a simple guy. He wanted revenge against those who tried to kill his daddy--he said as much publicly--and also because it stuck in his craw that Bush the Elder didn't get Saddam in '91 when he had the chance. Got it, big guy? Neocons wanted war with Iraq in order to reshape the Middle East, make Israel more secure, extend American power and face down the Saudis. Bush wanted it for personal reasons, including the power and the glory. O.K. to protect America too. But trying to sell the American people on either rationale proved tricky.
"The neocons' couldn't go public with their argument because they'd have to make Bush admit some of his associates in the Saudi royal family aided in attacking New York. On the other hand Bush couldn't sell his main reasons for wanting to invade Iraq because what idiot in his right takes a nation to war for poppa?
"So they compromised. They spoon-fed the media other reasons for fighting Iraq. They said Iraq had tons and tons of anthrax and other stuff, and was buying nuclear fuel from Niger and building remote control drones. They said Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes and was not above arming al-Qaida.
"Some of it might've even been true. You couldn't prove it or disprove it without jeopardizing national security, so the media ate it up, especially cable TV, which stood to gain through improved ratings, ad revenue and by making everybody into a media star. So, after much drum-beating, we the people went to war. Soldiers and lots of Iraqis, die daily. Big surprise."
"Wait," I said as I hung up the pump. "I'm confused--."
"Then their plan is working, my friend."