Americans have a desperate need to believe. We want to trust our government and our leaders. Our default position is to accept without too much questioning the assertions of our presidents and the institutions of our government. Few of us are easily convinced yet today that America was involved in assassinations and the deposing of democratically-elected leaders of other nations, and as Hamas drops rockets into Israel and Israeli troops sweep through Gaza we conveniently ignore the incontrovertible fact that it was the policies of our outgoing president that put Hamas into power.
Our citizens are not big on context. When the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers overthrew the U.S. puppet Shah Reza Pahlevi in 1979 and occupied the American embassy, we accepted the characterizations our leaders gave us that the Ayatollah was a madman. Perhaps, he was, but he was a madman of our own devise, whose foundational power grew from the CIA's overthrow of a democratically-elected leader in the early 1950s, a man who was nationalizing energy company assets. The Shah became our boy, bought billions of dollars of our armaments, let us have his country's oil, tortured his opposition with U.S-trained forces, and was no real threat to Israel. High school history class, however, leaves out that part and the journalism that covered it, rare though it was, went largely ignored. The Ayatollah was a lunatic, our enemy, a threat to global peace, and that was all the American taxpayers needed to hear. Give us a bad guy so we can be good.
America's role as the unwavering good guy is a mythology that has sustained us but may ultimately be our ruin. We are not the knights of perpetual goodness on steeds of democratic glory saving the world from tyranny. Often, we have played the opposite role. Unfortunately, as the eight years of the Bush administration are coming to a close, we seem to still want to believe in our own righteousness, instead of scrutinizing our government's behavior in our name. The founders, of course, had a different construct in mind. The United States became a nation on the premise of the simple notion that there was nothing more patriotic than the act of questioning authority, and that is the only way it will survive as a country of free people.
Working people tend to turn to the media to handle this responsibility for our democracy. This is our mistake. There is, of course, as the wise man said, "no such thing as a free press unless you own one." America's media are generally owned by the corporate entities that have interests that do not serve the public. Consequently, when Brit Hume and Brian Williams and Wolf Blitzer intone their stenographic journalism based upon the White House's message of the day, we are all misled. Those who go further are shouted down or vilified as unpatriotic and ridiculed for not wearing flag pins on their lapels. Global conflict is reduced to the simplicity of a football game under the Friday Night Lights.
We cannot easily undo our failures as a democracy. We can, however, reduce the odds of repeating them, and the best place to start that process is by reading Russ Baker's epic new book Family of Secrets. Baker is independent and unafraid, two characteristics needed for unfettered journalism, and he has been relentless in pursuing the damning details that other reporters have either misunderstood or ignored. Baker's investigation into the Bush family and its self-serving influence over American policy is profoundly disturbing and immediately important as the spinners try to reframe the disaster of George W. Bush's tenure in the White House. As an investigator and as a writer of compelling narrative, Baker has created, in my estimation, an almost unequaled standard in political reportage. He has refused to accept conventional wisdom regarding the Bush family and the failed son they made president. There is no way any reasonable person can reject what Baker reports.
I confess that I was prepared to be dismissive. When Baker first approached me about an interview and to offer what little insight I had on years of covering the Bushes in Texas, my reaction was that he was too late and that the public had been worn out by the publishing deluge prompted by George W's incompetence and lying. Why did we need another book on the Bushes? After reading Family of Secrets that answer is abundantly obvious: we did not know the truth. I think we do now and Russ Baker has given it to us in a brilliant book that that will be impossible for any sensible American to ignore. In almost every key moment of American history over the past half century, Baker has turned up witnesses and documents that lead to a different view of everything from Watergate to Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, George W's National Guard fiasco, and the disinformation that led to the invasion of Iraq.
I considered myself well informed on both Presidents Bush but Baker has proved that even those of us close to the subject need to reconsider the facts and to do otherwise is to jeopardize the value and purpose of our democracy. In the years that it has taken him to create this masterwork, Baker has uncovered new evidence and witnesses, which both offer a different perspective on the political ascent of the Bush family and how their greed and lust for control has affected our democracy. The reporting in this book will leave any reader doubting everything they have ever heard from the news media and they will become convinced, page after page, footnote after footnote, quote after quote, that everything we thought we knew about the Bush family and American history in the past 50 years was wrong.
As Karl Rove, Joe Allbaugh, Karen Hughes, Mark McKinnon, Dan Bartlett, Condoleeza Rice and the rest of the outgoing administration go about their immoral task of trying to secure a more positive Bush legacy, let them confront the truths as revealed in Family of Secrets History will not abide any further distortions of the Bush record, and when researchers seek to understand what happened to our country under the Bush family regime, let's hope they find their way to the phenomenal work of Russ Baker. Family of Secrets is much more than a non-fiction narrative of political history; Baker has created an historical document that is, ultimately, an act of courageous patriotism for a nation in need of self-examination and the truth.