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Credible Information, 1999 - 2003

 
by Mark Pawlak

                                                  For Gary Trudeau

June 19, 1999

At the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones
Sir Geoffrey Shakerley, official photographer,
observed a “feeling of euphoria”
as he snapped pictures in Windsor Castle
after the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel.

He did allow that one official photograph
of the bride and groom, the assembled
members of their families, and foreign royals,
had to be doctored, because Prince William,
son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales,
and second in line to the throne,
did not look happy enough.

January 1, 2000

The controversy over when the 20th century
ends and the 21st century actually begins
was stirred up when Arthur C. Clarke,
author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, took issue
last year with people who called the year 2000
the start of the 3rd millennium. “Though some people
have difficulty grasping this,” he’d noted,
“we’ll have had only 99 years of this century
by January 1, 2000.”

A sixth-century Roman monk
is responsible for the confusion .
Dionysius Exiguus, also known as Dennis the Short,
created the calendar still in use in most of the Western world.
But because Romans did not have the concept of zero,
his calendar started with the year “One.”

September 13, 2001

Stung by suggestions that by delaying his return
to Washington on September 11th,
President Bush had hurt himself politically
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer
disclosed that Mr. Bush had argued
strenuously for his immediate return to the capital
—not once but twice: on the morning of the attacks
and again that afternoon—but, Mr.Fleischer said,
the Secret Service had vetoed the plan
as too dangerous.

February 26, 2002

The Office of Strategic Influence was established after September 11th
to counter fears that the United States was losing public support
overseas for its war on terrorism, particularly in Islamic nations.
Its object was to use the foreign news media and the Internet
to tell the American side of the story. Plans for the office included
ways to “coerce” foreign journalists and opinion makers
and to “punish” those who convey the wrong message.
“A lot of the world does not like America,”
one senior official had said, “and it’s going to take
years to change their hearts and minds.”

June 19, 1999

It was Prince Edward who thought
the image of his teen-age nephew
needed alteration. “Prince Edward said
he didn’t think Prince William looked
absolutely his best,” the photographer explained,
“so we were able to digitally
put in another image of Prince William
from one of the other shots where he is
smiling and laughing.”

January 1, 2000

The millennium mistake is a symptom
of the “dumbing down” of society,
according to Science writer Jeff DeTray.
“Too many people have come to believe
that everything – even a historical fact –
is a matter of opinion,” he wrote.
“When children embrace the idea
that something is true if enough people believe it,
the incentive to pursue critical thinking,
education, and hard work begins to disappear.”

But at the Center for Millennial Studies,
Stephen O’Leary disagreed: “I frankly think
that people who are self-appointed experts
in timekeeping and chronology and calendars
should shut the hell up
and let people have their party,” he said.

September 13, 2001

President Bush spent the day of September 11th
traveling a zigzag route:
first, from Sarasota, Florida
to Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana;
then from Shreveport
to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska;
finally, from Omaha to Washington, D.C.,
arriving back in the capitol at seven p.m., almost ten hours
after he had learned of the first attack.

February 26, 2002

The Office of Strategic Influence has now been ordered
to cease operations. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
made the announcement one day after President Bush
expressed amazement “about reading
some allegation that somehow our government
would never tell the American people the truth.”
The President told Mr. Rumsfeld he was concerned
that irreparable harm would be done
if our military was suspected of spreading
false information with journalists abroad.

June 19, 1999

Sir Geoffrey’s assistant, Robert Simpson,
corroborated that Prince William was in a
“jubilant mood” during the photo shoot,
but that just at the moment that picture was snapped,
he had looked away from the camera.

January 1, 2000

The 24-hour Y2K festivities were barely over
when the countdown clock outside Philadelphia’s City Hall
was restarted. In Chicago, the Millennium Celebration
begun in January 1999, runs through December 2001.
The city’s events coordinator, Jamey Lundblad, said that Chicagoans
celebrated “in a huge way this New Year’s Eve,
and we’re going to be celebrating next New Year’s Eve as well,
and all the way through the year 2001.”

September 13, 2001

President Bush was never “in hiding,”
asserted senior presidential advisor Karl Rove;
rather, he had delayed his return because of
“real and credible information”
that he was a target of the terrorists.
“We’re talking about specific and chilling evidence,”
Mr. Rove said, “not vague suspicions.”
Neither he nor press secretary Fleischer
offered reporters an explanation
why this was not made public earlier.

February 26, 2002

Asked whether he thought the controversy
surrounding the Office of Strategic Influence
has harmed the military’s credibility,
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replied, ‘’I doubt it.
I hope not. If it has, we’ll rebuild it.’’
Rumsfeld added that the military will in the future
continue to use information to its advantage
but will stick with deceiving only its enemies on the battlefield,
not the international media.
‘’There’s a lot of things that we have to do,
and we will do those things,” he said.
“We’ll just do them in a different office.’’

Coda, May 6, 2003

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer today acknowledged
that President Bush had traveled to the carrier Abraham Lincoln
in the Pacific Ocean last week
via a small Navy plane
because he wanted to experience a landing
the way carrier pilots do,
and not because the ship—
as had at first been maintained—
was too far out at sea
for him to arrive by helicopter.

The president and his top aides had made
no secret of Mr. Bush’s excitement
at landing on a carrier at sea
in a small plane traveling at 150 miles per hour
and being brought to a halt by an arresting cable.
The decision to fly in the S3B Viking jet rather than a helicopter
was made by Mr. Bush himself. “The president wanted to land on it
in an aircraft that would allow him to see an aircraft landing
the same way that the pilots see an aircraft landing,” Fleischer said.
“He wanted to see it as realistically as possible.”

The White House spokesman denied
the accusations of Democratic opponents
that the President’s decision to make a “Top Gun”-style entrance—
emerging from the four-seat jet, dubbed Navy One,
in a full flight-suit with a helmet under his arm—
was in any way intended to turn the Abraham Lincoln, its crew
and fighter pilots returning home victorious from the Iraq war
into a prop for the President’s re-election campaign.







© 2000 Mark Pawlak. By permission of Hanging Loose Press.
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